What is your higher education history?
I moved to London as a student and have never left! I studied Chemistry at Imperial as an undergraduate and postgraduate, and then was a Students’ Union sabbatical officer for a year. I spent two years being paid to play computer games (a story for another time) but then worked at Imperial, Kingston and SOAS for about 6 years each, before starting at London Met this summer.
All my roles have been broadly governance-based but, as AHUA members will know, this covers a wide range of areas and varies wildly from one institution to the next.
I have been actively involved with the Association of University Administrators (AUA) for the last decade or so. This year I have started a two-year term as Chair of the AUA and will be working on a range of areas, including raising its profile with AHUA members. Do feel free to ask me if you have any questions.
What does your current role and remit encompass?
My line management role covers governance, legal & student casework, information compliance, health & safety and academic business administration. The first four components are common for my type of role, but the last is our name for the unit that supports academic departments across a range of administrative processes.
In my role as Clerk to our Board of Governors, I lead on the institutional governance arrangements, (London Met is a company limited by guarantee and an exempt charity) as well as the support for our Board and a range of related activities such as risk management, Prevent and liaison with the Office for Students.
What does a typical day look like for you?
As part of my mid-life crisis I have started climbing, so I go to the local climbing fitness centre three or four days a week before work. I then cycle to work almost every day, which takes about 45 minutes. This can be either the high or low point of the day, mostly determined by the weather and the traffic across Blackfriars Bridge. I do try to run in occasionally, but not as often as I should.
From there, a typical day (if there is such a thing) will involve a couple of meetings about institutional projects and initiatives or a more formal committee meeting. Most of our activity is based on the Holloway Road Campus, but I am still finding my way around and so sometimes have to leave early to find the right room. I am also putting faces to names on e-mails, so I am spending time getting out of the office to meet people and find out what their work involves, what their priorities are and how I can work best with them.
Almost every day seems to have some unexpected challenge to resolve, which I think comes with the role. These can often take up a fair bit of time, but solving problems, or preventing problems occurring, is quite good fun.
What do you find most enjoyable and challenging in your role?
The variety is definitely the thing I enjoy the most about this job. Being at the heart of an institution gives you a really good overview of what is going on and enables you to get involved in a range of projects that aren’t necessarily in your remit.
The big change for me in taking on this role has been becoming a full member of our senior leadership team. I think I’ve adjusted well to this – but that would really be for the other members to say!
What are the current challenges for your institution?
Most people will be aware of the institution’s history around student number reporting and visas, but the institution has come on a long way from them. There has been a huge amount of work to move London Met forward and it has gone through some very challenging times, with credit due to all the staff involved. However, reputation is still a factor.
Finances remain a challenge with increased competition around student recruitment and a heavy reliance on Clearing each academic year. We have a new Vice-Chancellor and I’m really excited to be part of the staff taking us forward into the future.
What do you think are the biggest changes ahead for higher education?
Probably not just the amount of change, but the pace of it and the uncertainty of it all.
There are many changes coming and we can only plan for so many variations. We still have no real clear idea on what Brexit will mean and I suspect many of us are still hoping it won’t happen (as I type this in early November) The Augar Review, what the OfS will become, increased international competition – I could go on.
I think the other thing we are likely to see in the near future is a massive disruptive change. As many people have pointed out, if Google, Apple, or even Amazon decide to really go for education, then the whole model might change globally, especially if technology changes student behaviour completely.
Who has inspired you and why?
Career wise, I have been lucky to work with a number of Registrars and Secretaries who have all provided inspiration in one way or the other – both good and bad. Many of them are still working, so best not give too much detail!
I’d also single out the Academic Registrar from when I was at Imperial (Vernon McClure), as I worked with him as a student and then later he was the one who advised me I had to leave Imperial before I became institutionalised…