Meet Our Members: Jane Robinson, Durham University

Jane Robinson gives an insight into her role as Chief Operating Officer and Registrar at Durham University. Jane joined Durham University in September 2016, having previously served as Chief Executive at Gateshead Council.

What is your higher education history?

This is my first role in higher education, although my previous role as a Chief Executive in Local Government involved close partnerships with universities and I have sat on HE Governing Bodies. My relationship with Durham University began many years ago, however, as I studied for my MBA at the Business School here!

What does your current role and remit encompass?

I am COO and Registrar and oversee all operational aspects of the University. I also have an external role managing stakeholders and developing partnerships.

What does a typical day look like for you in your role?

One of the joys of the job is its diversity, so no day is the same! Yesterday, I started with a 1-2-1 with the VC; signed a memorandum of understanding for the World Heritage Site with the Cathedral and Durham County, had a meeting with developers, and attended a dinner at one of our colleges. (Like other colleagues, I am finding this job is doing nothing for my waistline!)

What do you find most enjoyable and/or challenging in your role?

The complexity of the governance, and hence the speed of decision-making, can be frustrating, but working with enthusiastic and motivated colleagues and students in such a beautiful location is a privilege!

What are the current challenges for your institution?

We have just agreed our new 10 year strategy, which is hugely exciting. We will be growing the University, investing significantly in our estate, and improving on our operational efficiency – the big challenge now is to deliver!

What do you think are the biggest changes ahead for higher education?

As Graham Donelan’s recent AHUA blog post points out, there has never been so much change. Increasingly, we are dealing not only with policy changes which directly affect the sector, like TEF and REF; but also significant global issues – fears about migration, isolationism, growing inequality, the antipathy towards “experts”, and the challenges and benefits of new technology, to name but a few.

The sector is clearly changing and universities will need to be focused, fleet of foot, resilient and creative in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

Who has inspired you and why?

My dad was Deputy Vice Chancellor of a Russell Group University and is now an Emeritus Professor. He has incredible energy, determination and an ability to bring people together to make a positive difference.