Thursday, 18 July 2013

VC to retire

Hello. My name is Kostas Economides and I am a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the South of England (USE for short). Well, actually that is not true really as the names of individuals and institutions in this blog have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty!

Having used ten blog posts to tell you the story of Gus and Heather's adventures in Cephalonia I have been neglecting events at USE itself. The most important of these has been the announcement by the Vice Chancellor, Victor Crispin, that he is to retire at the end of the next academic year.

Crispin said that he has made this announcement a full academic year in advance to enable the Board of Governors to determine the best possible process for the appointment of his successor. The rumour is that the university will engage an external group to draw up an initial long list of about twelve candidates which, in discussions with the governors, will then be reduced to a shorter list for interview. Apparently this is the procedure that was adopted by one of our close neighbours and rivals when they appointed their new VC last year.

Everyone here at USE seems to agree that, although there have been times when we were unhappy with the VC - for example his decision earlier in the year to spend a lot of money on revamping the university's logo and mission statement - overall his twenty year tenure has been a very successful one. In terms of student numbers the university has virtually doubled in size. Recruitment is not a problem for us either with more and better qualified students applying for places here. USE has jumped up quite a few places in the various university league tables. Its research record has also improved, although we can't give a final judgment on this aspect of our work until the results of the Research Excellence Framework are announced. The university has become much closer to its local community with good links to the council and local businesses. It has also gone a long way to achieving its other aims, particularly in relation to its diversity and green targets. It has also established links with universities overseas, with recent partnerships with institutions in Eastern Europe, India and China to add to those that we already had with European countries and the United States. Most important of all in Crispin's achievements is the fact that USE is in a secure financial position. He leaves his successor a university in good health.

Crispin's early career was in what we now call Russell Group universities and when he first arrived here we wondered if he would be able to understand the kind of institution USE needs to be. But Crispin recognised its strengths and took steps to address its weaknesses. At every turn he was never too ambitious but neither were we allowed to be complacent. It will be interesting to see what kind of person the governors ask the headhunters to look for, and what kind of vision he or she has for the university over the next two decades.

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