Last week we held ten focus groups. To all who came along and contributed to the debate, many thanks. After each one I use my phone to photograph the flipcharts, and while I can edit out my shoes, I haven't yet managed to keep the whole thing in focus. The words "clear vision" seem, ironically, to always avoid the auto-focus function and become somewhat of a blur (you can make up your own jokes from Blur album titles).
While being out-of-focus might make translation of the results more challenging, allowing some latitude in the direction of discussions has proven particularly illuminating. Our lay Council members who ran six of the groups last week have all learned something new about how the University operates at the coal face and I have already seen some of this new-found knowledge coming out in email discussions. 'Trust' is probably one of the most repeated words in these discussions, so as I start to draw together the common themes from the whole engagement exercise, I will try to leave the corrective lenses at home.
This week we expect to appoint a recruitment agent. We met with the companies last Thursday to learn from their experience of recruiting Vice-Chancellors, and to understand their perspectives on this job and on the market. All were very positive about the exciting challenges this role brings, and believe that we will have a lot of interest; national and international; from within the HE sector and outside. As a panel, what we were looking for was someone who will work with us, listen, not impose their ideas but add expertise we don't have at the University. I see that the Vice-Chancellors of Sheffield and Dundee have also announced their retirement, so it will be interesting to see how these parallel competitions pan out.
As we come to the end of the first phase of this recruitment project, there is still the opportunity to make your views known on the appointment of our next Vice-Chancellor. The last two focus groups, mixed groups open to anyone are today; the survey is open until Friday.