Does our next Vice-Chancellor need high quality academic credentials to fulfil their role successfully? I think that many would accept that an inherent understanding of the academic enterprise is important in who we engage for this role, and one way to get that is to have fully experienced it. To have been through a career of teaching students and carrying out research. Some of you have pointed out to me that the world's leading academic institutions are, by and large, led by academics with a track record of achievement. That makes a strong case for 'high quality academic credentials' being near the top of the person specification.
The survey we ran in February, against a list of 15 possible characteristics for our next Vice-Chancellor, asked respondents to identify up to 5 as 'Most important' and 5 as 'Least important'. The results are interesting:
While we might expect staff from the Education & Research job family to lean more towards this as an important characteristic, I was surprised at the proportion who assessed it as one of the least important characteristics. Overall, in the league table of results, characteristics about the ability to engage with staff and students, build teams, lead a complex organisation and have strong personal values ranked higher. I hope to be able to publish the full report of the engagement exercise later this month, which I hope will prompt continued debate.
My last thought reflects some of the wider changes being spoken about in higher education. There is a discussion around thinking differently about Universities. In this engagement exercise, people have consistently talked about the 'marketisation' or 'corporatisation' of the sector. While this blog isn't long enough, and I don't consider myself informed enough, to make comment on such a big issue, we might reflect that the current stock of Vice-Chancellors, and their teams, have been brought up to deliver success in this environment. If there is a movement to change the nature of the sector, do we need different skills to lead it?