6 June 2023

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In the USA, apparently 6 June 2023 was National Yo-Yo Day, though I suspect that is probably a marketing ploy by the Acme YoYo Corporation. For me, it was the day we started the process of recruiting our next Vice-Chancellor, through a meeting of the Committee on the Office of Vice-Chancellor (link here for the governance geeks among you). We rendez-vous’d in the car park of the Premier Inn at Bagshot and having been given the all-clear by the security team, drove into Bagshot Park, the official residence of our Chancellor, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Vice Chancellor is the academic leader and chief executive of the University so finding the right person to succeed Professor White, who earlier this year announced his decision to stand down in July 2024, is one of the most important decisions a University has to take. We have been really successful over the past few years. COVID was difficult, but as a community we pulled through. I won’t repeat here our improvement in the various rankings which measure the University sector, but they are all heading the right direction. So how do we build on all that good work, ensure that we attract the sort of leader which is right for the University and ensure that they are able to lead us to further success?

Our University strategy runs to 2026, so we are clear on the direction of travel, but the environment in which Universities now operate has become much more challenging. We need to reflect on the key skills and attributes that our next VC will need, to help us navigate these issues while laying the groundwork for the next iteration of our strategy. So here are the main stages of the recruitment process  we have devised to ensure this can happen:

Over the next few weeks we will run a survey and set up some focus groups. Your views on the attributes which a new Vice-Chancellor must have will help guide the recruitment process. Please do take this opportunity to let the Committee know what you are thinking.

Secondly, we will start the advertising and search in late August or early September. We have engaged Perrett Laver, an international recruitment company who have deep experience in recruiting Vice-Chancellors, to help us. While some people will respond to an advert, our experience is that successful senior recruitment often comes from an active search – calling those people who may not be thinking of a new job and talking to them about the opportunities. This is what Perrett Laver are good at, but we will also advertise widely to counter any concern that such searches can miss out certain groups of people.

Fourthly (I skipped ‘thirdly’ just to see how diligently you were reading this) we will go through the process of creating a long-list of potential candidates, then whittling this down to a short-list. This is always difficult, and we expect to see a great variety of candidates. Some may be current Vice-Chancellors, others senior leaders looking for a promotion. Some may have deep experience of the UK University sector, some may bring us new ideas from overseas. And whilst many will come from the University sector, some may be experienced leaders from industry, the public or charity sectors.

Finally, we will go through a selection process with the shortlisted candidates, of which there will probably be 4-6 at that stage. Those candidates will get an opportunity to meet more people at the University and learn more about us. (Just as we are gauging them for fit, they are making a similar  judgement as to whether we are the right role for them). We will get to see them in different scenarios to learn more about their skills; their experience; how they engage inclusively with students, staff and others; their leadership style, and a whole range of other factors. In early December we hope to have identified the person we would like to ask to be our next Vice-Chancellor. Then we just need to get everything approved and agreed by Council.

So after finishing our cups of tea and being encouraged to take any left-over biscuits with us for the journey home, the Committee members all headed back to their day jobs. The next meeting will be on campus in August, to agree the documents that will start the advertising and search process.

Many of you will recognise the main steps of the recruitment process as it is similar to that used to recruit the other senior leadership positions at the University. This one is a bit longer, and a bit more complicated, so different members of the Committee will write blogs throughout this process to keep you up to date with what’s going on. If there are questions you want to ask, or topics you want included in future blogs, then do let me know. You might even get a name-check  😊


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