We used to have a small cast brass plaque which we bought in America which said "In 1837, at this place, nothing happened". Well, at the University of Bath, on 3 Sep 2018, something happened - we appointed a new Vice-Chancellor. In the history of this University this is a really significant event and it was a real privilege to have been part of an atypical and significant recruitment approach. This was probably different from what we have done before in three main respects:
- a lot of effort was put into engagement, trying to give members of our University community the opportunities to make a contribution, and keep informed about the recruitment. This had a real impact on the type of person we were looking for in the Vice-Chancellor role, and is something we can perhaps take further in other significant appointments
- we ran an assessment centre as part of the selection process so that we could see candidates operating in different situations. All of you who took part in the events of 26 July will have seen different aspects of each candidate and there was a good discussion at the Council meeting on how these were brought together to give us a richer picture. The investment from so many people in these events has given us more confidence in the result
- transparency around the remuneration package goes, I believe, well beyond what others in the sector are doing. That we were able to be so open is a tribute to all who recognised the importance of a new approach to such issues as we develop as a University and stuck to that commitment through the process.
When I started this blog back in January, I was aware that it might be a bit of a departure from the way things have been done in the University. My closing words of that first posting were that this will be "an informal personal view of the process and not a formal management statement". You will have seen the formal announcement of the result of the heptathlon which made up our Vice-Chancellor recruitment exercise so I won't repeat any of it here. This has been the longest and most comprehensive recruitment process I have ever been involved in, so now the initial excitement has died down I thought it worth looking back at some of the figures:
- the survey we ran in February about what we should look for in a new VC had 857 respondents who made 2,488 comments;
- at the same time we had over 200 people come to 17 focus groups, generating 148 pieces of flipchart with comments, observations and some words I now can't read;
- in July, 93 people from across the University took part in presentations and meetings with the candidates (as the thermometer challenged local records);
- of the 155 people we spoke to about the role, 38 applied;
- in January my 'VC recruitment' folder was empty. It now has 115 documents. I tried to count the emails I have sent on this topic, but lost interest after reaching 1000.
I am extremely grateful to everyone who took part in this whole process. Without the level of interest and perceptive questions from staff, students, alumni, former members of staff, members of the wider community (sorry, starting to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech), I don't think that we would have gained the confidence of the quality candidates who put their names forward for what could have been a controversial and challenging appointment. I am also grateful to those who have read my blog (8167 views, with the highest single day being Friday 13 April) and offered comments and feedback. This engagement stuff is hard work, but satisfying when it delivers a great result.
This has been a fascinating process, and most importantly, we do have a great result. The next phase of this project will be inducting our new Vice-Chancellor to the University which I am sure will involve a whole new range of people from across our community. Who knows where we will now go on the next stage of our journey as a top-class academic institution.