UHR / CUPA Bursary 2020 winner




The winner of the 2020 UHR / CUPA Bursary is Alison Stephenson, Deputy HR Director at the University of Sunderland.

This is the fourth year in which UHR has teamed up with our friends and partners in CUPA-HR, our US equivalent body, which supports HR professionals at American universities, to offer a guest place at the CUPA Conference and a funded study tour of US universities. We’re keen to learn from new approaches and international perspectives, and this funded learning experience allows a UK HE HR specialist to learn from US counterparts and then come back to the UK to share those learnings via their own personal and UHR networks. The 2020 CUPA Conference is scheduled to be held in Orlando, Florida in October 2020.

Alison Stephenson’s study project is an interesting take on the equalities agenda and takes the theme of ‘Managing Multi-generational Workforces’.

“This idea rings a real bell for me, and it’s been a focus of personal reading and study for a while,” Alison said. “We are used to thinking in terms of protected characteristics. However we need to think more about how we get the best from all the generations that are in our workforce, and we don’t always do that. As our employees are working beyond the original retirement ages, the age-width of our workforce is broader than ever.  There are different expectations about working life as we move across the different generations, about how and where we work, about our expectations of reward packages, employee engagement, motivation, management styles and lifestyle expectations – but the sheer variety of human personality can sometimes get hidden beneath some typical stereotyping, around things like resistance to change, or ability to manage or engage with technology. I consider multi generation workforce as part of our diversity planning. The chance to visit and discuss with US colleagues is a fantastic one, and I’ll be lining up meetings with the universities of Miami and Central Florida to learn about their strategies on multi generation workforce.”

Prior to applying for this year’s bursary Alison had spoken with past bursary winners including Sophie Harris (QMUL, 2017) and Rhona Bain (Edinburgh Napier, 2019) and was keen to acknowledge their support. “It was clear that for both Sophie and Rhona the bursary opportunity was amazing for them, both personally and professionally. It would have been so wrong to pull back from this chance once I had a clear picture of what it involved,” she said.

With Covid-19 an ever-present consideration, and the implications of international travel planning far from clear, there remains some possibility that this year’s study tour will have to be conducted digitally, though at the time of publishing this information it is still CUPA’s intention to go ahead with the Orlando Conference in October. If Alison is unable to travel she has a well-developed fall-back position to enable to her to meet US contacts digitally, and of course we’ll keep UHR readers posted.

We’ll share news of Alison’s planning and projects over the coming months. In these turbulent days we’ll be sharing information about our 2021 plans just as soon as we are able to.



The information below relates to the 2020 application round and is provided to help those thinking of an application for the 2021 bursary.


What is the opportunity?

CUPA-HR is the equivalent of UHR in the USA, and for many years, there has been reciprocal attendance at our conferences between the two organisations. In 2020, as well as the UHR Chair attending, one of UHR’s delegate places will be offered to an HR professional in mid-career, to encourage international, reciprocal learning and develop talent within the HE sector in the UK.


CUPA-HR Annual Conference 4 - 6 October 2020

This conference provides the opportunity to connect with HE HR professionals from the USA, and other areas, with over 1000 delegates and a large sponsors’ exhibition. The format of the conference is similar to the UHR conference, with a mix of plenaries, workshops and other social and networking opportunities.


A short study visit to an HR department in a US university

Applicants for the UHR bursary should also identify one or more US universities, possibly in Florida or the surrounding area, to which they would arrange a short study visit to take place just before or after the conference. This might be to understand the university’s approach to HR, or its handling of particular topics of mutual interest; or, where it has a reputation for good practice, the chance to see this at a detailed level; alternatively, the HEI may already have a link with the applicant’s own organisation, which could be enhanced; or it could be a contrasting type, such as a ‘for-profit’, or a two-year degree provider.

Rhona Bain of Edinburgh Napier University and 2019 winner of the bursary, said: "The CUPA Conference and EXPO experience was incredible and together with the opportunity to visit and meet counterparts in other universities, who are facing the same challenges, was a career high for me.  I would urge anyone considering applying to go for it!"


Who can apply?

Please read our further information for eligibility criteria and full information on this fantastic one-off career development opportunity.



Wednesday 18th March 2020, Midday


2020 Further information
2020 Application form

Learn more about the former winners of the UHR-CUPA Bursary 

You might want to read some of the UHR blogs based on the winners' study visits at www.uhr.ac.uk/blog/








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