Belfast AUT Newsletter Issue no. 4- April 2003
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go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext Finding Our Next V-C

Sir George Bain retires on 31 July 2004, and Senate has started the process of finding his replacement and it now hopes to announce the appointment in mid January. It has appointed two committees to do the work:

Selection Committee Senior Pro-Chancellor (Mrs Brenda McLaughlin), 3 lay Senators (Mrs Teresa Townsley, Ms Patricia Gordon, Mr John Holland), President of the Student Union (Mr J Hill), 3 members of Academic Council (Professors Roy Crawford, John Gardner, J Smaczny).
Search Committee Second Pro-Chancellor (Dr Chris Gibson), a lay Senator (Mrs Sheila Davidson), a Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Prof Ken Brown), 2 members of Academic Council (Prof Jean Orr, Dr Paul Hudson), 2 senior members of the Academic Support Sector (,Mr Norman Bennett, Mr Frank Young), co-opted (Prof Gerry McCormac).

The search committee will encourage possible applicants and provide applicants with further information. The results of the AUT questionnaire have been passed to it. If you have a candidate to suggest, you should contact a member of this committee. QUB is also employing Saxon Bampfylde Hever as executive search consultants.

A job specification is being drawn up with an emphasis on leadership. The job will be advertised in May and it is hoped to attract applicants from around the world, and not just academics. The selection committee is completely separate from the search committee. It will start shortlisting in November and will hold a sequence of interviews in November to January.

go to topcontents go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext Outcome of Next V-C Questionnaire

There were 118 responses to the paper questionnaire which was sent only to AUT members. An electronic version of the same questionnaire placed on a website and was advertised on the all-staff weekly roundup. It was open to all QUB staff and there were 22 responses. The pattern of responses for both groups was very similar and they have been combined together.

The questionnaire listed 19 experience/qualities/policies that the next V-C should have and the respondents were asked to rate them on a five point scale from highly desirable to highly undesirable. The respondents were told to be realistic. The results are summarised below. The ratings are qualitative but in order to summarise them it is convenient to assign a score of 5 to Highly desirable, 4 to Desirable, 3 to neutral, 2 to Undesirable and 1 to Highly undesirable, and to calculate an average score.

Some people complained that they did not know what the Russell group was, so I had better explain. The name comes from an informal group of Vice-Chancellors who met in the Russell Hotel near CVCP headquarters. The term is used to refer to the twenty or so most research intensive universities. Even though QUB overlaps the tail end of the Russell group in some league tables, Queen’s is not a member of the group. The universities also enjoy strong and well qualified student demand, and the group regards itself as a sort of ivy-league. Some of its leaders have been loud in demanding the right to charge large top-up fees and to break with national pay scales. At QUB only one third of undergraduates pay the present fees in full and one third pay none at all. and, of course, the vast majority of our undergraduates are from Northern Ireland. We pride ourselves with our position in the local community, but are nervous about narrow, short-sight local control. I had envisaged the last two attributes in the questionnaire (‘follow the Russell group’, ‘specifically a NI university’) as being mutually exclusive, but some people clearly did not think so.

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Question Highly desirable desirable neutral undesirable highly desirable no Reply average score order of preference
Most management experience in 'old' universities 30 58 43 3 5 1 3.76 8
Most management experience outside 'old' universities 5 21 65 26 17 6 2.78 16
Have most experience in business or industry 5 21 49 40 20 5 2.64 18
Have strong connections with political world 10 57 38 22 8 5 3.29 15
Have strong connections with business & industry 22 61 37 11 8 1 3.56 11
Have experience of Northern Ireland 28 50 50 6 3 3 3.69 9=
Have good relations with both NI communities 62 44 29 1 0 4 4.23 7
Have high standing ni the wider academic community 87 45 6 0 0 2 4.59 2=
Be a distinguished scholar 55 64 21 0 0 0 4.24 6
Be a traditionalist 4 15 64 42 11 4 2.70 17
Be democratic 64 56 15 1 0 4 4.35 5
Think strategically 89 44 3 1 1 2 4.59 2=
Handle people well 111 26 2 0 0 1 4.78 1
Be good at public relations 73 57 6 0 0 4 4.49 4
Attach most importance to research 34 36 56 7 2 5 3.69 9=
Attach most importance to teaching 26 36 59 11 3 5 3.53 12
Concentrate on fund raising 9 47 60 16 2 6 3.34 13
Make QUB follow the Russell group 12 39 62 12 6 9 3.30 14
Make QUB a specifically NI university 13 21 33 37 32 4 2.60 19

The results fall into three groups.

The first is the attributes which were held to be overwhelmingly highly desirable or desirable. Top of the list is “handle people well”, followed by “think strategically”, “have high standing in the wider academic community”, “be good at public relations”, “be democratic”, be a distinguished scholar”, and “have good relations with both NI communities”.

Next there were attributes which, on balance, were held to be between desirable and neutral. These were: “have most management experience in ‘old’ universities”, “have experience of Northern Ireland”, “attach most importance to research”, “have strong connections with business & industry”, “attach most importance to teaching”, “concentrate on fund raising”, “make QUB follow the Russell group”, and “have strong connections with the political world”.

The last group are attributes which, on average, were held to be between neutral and undesirable. These were “have most management experience outside ‘old’ universities”, “be a traditionalist”, and “have most experience in business or industry”. Bottom of all was “make QUB a specifically NI university

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Thirty five individuals provided written comments. These are listed below but those which might be libellous, which mention candidates, or which concern the questionnaire are omitted. A strong theme was a wish to reduce bureaucracy/administration and restore collegiality/power to the academics A common comment was that equal importance should be attached to teaching and research. Some people complained that they did not know what the Russell group was.


1 It would be great to have a VC who really cared about staff and who had realistic expectations of what can be delivered given the resources available.

11 The most important thing about any new VC is that (s)he should be someone who can be respected as an individual ¼ and be of high standing as a distinguished representative of a genuine academic subject. After the devastations of the past five years, and the neglect of the previous twelve, Queen’s is at a particularly crucial point in its existence, and it would take an exceptional person to reverse the Gadarene rush...

14 The new VC should be able to recognize the gross inefficiencies in QUB and not be afraid to correct them. he should also give power back to academics to run Queen’s instead of administrators.

33 Must be interested in staff as people who are essential in the running of a good university — to be looked after properly in terms of salary and conditions of service.

37 It should be someone who doesn’t come up with one-size-fits-all inflexible formulae e.g. ‘Do everything’. Balanced excellence i.e. feel pressured to do all this at once all the time.

38 Need to relate the university to the wider community in a new form of partnership for the mutual benefit of both.

39 It will be very difficult to replace someone with the leadership qualities of George Bain. In my view ideally we need someone who has a modern outlook, who has best practice management skills combined with excellence & respect in terms of academic record. We need to have a clear mission of being “Ivy league” in terms of quality coupled with wide student access. funding and money are of course important but we must be extremely careful to avoid “Knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing” i.e. I am worried at times that we are trying to be a centre of excellence on the one hand but a “super polytechnic” on the other in terms of fund raising.

60 Government seems bent on reducing all but a few Universities to something roughly like the old Poly’s. Queens has a slim hope of being one of the few. The only real issue is whether the new VC has the contacts & will to keep that hope alive.

67 The best candidate to present should be appointed if if they are traditional. most experienced in industry, have no connection to tertiary level education since their B.Eng., are undemocratic top-down and believe they should concentrate on fund raising...

70 We need a VC who really understands the needs of students.

71 Rationale / Concentrate on core activities rather on cosmetics Leadership skills / Bent on streamlining administration and management structures / Attend to the needs of academics rather than the whims of administration.

85 Traditional, Regional, Civic Universities should be concerned primarily with original, international research, scholarship and teaching. Collegiality is more important than staff-course-participation of irrelevance, than line-management and than social engineering per se.

86 Get a real, ...., academic ... !

95 Somebody with a reasonable respect for academic staff.

101 Probably an impossible task to find someone with all the desirable attributes. We seem to be in strange position - met all the RAE requirements for UK yet the NI Assembly did not give us the money. Someone has to post this out long-term. In view of the changes on the horizon – access, fees etc. etc. we need someone who can look to the future and develop new ideas. We also need someone who can value the strengths of staff rather than try to get rid of people after every RAE.

103 If a candidate is formed to defend the intrinsic worth of learning, and the mechanisms that it requires, all the above would fall into place.

104 Same as last time. Let’s have a V-C who wants to run QUB as a first-rate University rather than as a second-rate business.

110 Surely we are looking for a balanced progressive who is alert to a variety of opportunities as they occur, that can be used to further excellent of teaching & research & who is aware of local, national & international context for higher education.

112 A V-C who cares about the School of Agriculture and Food Science (if it still exists in July 2004) would be nice!

222 What we need is someone who will 1.return to academics (and AR staff) a say in how things are run at QUB; and in the future planning of the university 2. Reduce the number of Directorates 3. Turn QUB into a collegiate institution one again.

Attach more importance to research/teaching.

1 Difficult to determine until governments funding policy — especially regional policy — is clarified.

21 Attach most importance to allowing us space for both — removing the needless paper trail. Some departments are in urgent need of extra support staff to ‘free up’ academics for teaching and research.

23 Attach equal importance to research and teaching.

56 Balanced, not “most” one or t’other.

79 Has to be both.

100 There seems to be a choice involved regarding the emphasis on research or teaching — I feel this is wrong, both are equally important & there should be no choice involved.

203 Not enough emphasis has been made on teaching. I’ve seen undergraduates taught very badly by ‘good’ researchers who publish a lot badly taught graduates from QUB engineering have already been noticed by industry who have to spend more time teaching them again. We are getting a good reputation at the expense of a good local reputation.

208 I hope the new V-C would prioritise the fundamentals of an old university; emphasising teaching; thereby investing community by producing quality graduates.

Have strong connections with the political world

1 No more Tony’s cronies please.

86 ...Not another New Labour tap dancer.

Think strategically

21 For the good! Strategies to ‘retain’ subjects and staff not strategies which involve devastating subject closures, ‘big stick’ method.
Handle people well

67 I don’t believe these questions helpful in narrowing the field though perhaps people-management should be a 6*!

118 Vital characteristic.

Be good at public relations

118 Vital characteristic.


Concentrate on fund raising

116 Loaded question — he should concentrate on “income generation”.


Make QUB follow the Russell group

47 My answer to the penultimate requirement [Neutral] should be given less weight than my others.

69 The next V-C must be sensitive to QUB’s position in Northern Ireland but focus on making QUB a leading British university . [Russell — Desirable; Specifically NI — Highly undesirable].

117 QUB has too many disadvantaged students to follow the Russell group exactly and we have regional responsibilities. But we must not let the politicians turn us into an institution tied to the parish pump.
Make QUB a specifically NI university

56 i.e. specifically (but not exclusively!!) FOR N I ‘customers’. [Highly desirable]



© 2003 Belfast Association of University Teachers
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