We only had had our previous Vice Chancellor for a few years when he announced he was retiring. So we were going to get another one! Under my first Vice chancellor I had to go through my first financial restructuring; under the next one, I had to weather the second. So what would my third incarnation bring me? I was sceptical.
He started in September, and he would go and visit all the schools. And in October it was our turn. I didn't expect much of his visit; I thought he would just get us together, and talk some marketing lingo at us for a while. About how he wanted to make sure the University was world-leading in research and teaching and student experience. And while we were at it, why not just add world peace.
When he started speaking, it wasn't like that at all! He just briefly introduced himself, and then opened the floor for questions. And questions we had! And he seemed genuinely listen. He didn't quite have an answer to everything; he had only been in the job in September, after all. But he was clearly paying attention, and as well; the answers he did have were all very reasonable. So I had to come there expecting to get nothing out of this, but I walked away with a lot of optimism!
So what was I thought optimistic about? I had asked two questions, neither of which was specific to the School. My first one was about peer guiding. We ask students to volunteer to guide the new students through their first week at university. And we are recruiting a lot of students, so they have to guide a lot of students. And these days can be long! I remember my own welcome week. A fair amount of beer and late nights were involved. Things must have changed a bit in the 30 years in between, but still; it is quite full on! And the freshers have become a bit more overwhelmed in the meantime. I think it is really important that we make a concerted effort to make sure they are well looked after in their first week at university, but we rely entirely on volunteers. We don't pay the students anything! And yes if you are a good peer guide it looks good on your CV, but hey, you can spend an entire week on other things that are also good for your CV if you don't become a peer guide. We have been struggling to recruit enough peer guides, and there are other schools where it is much worse than with us. So I was wondering if he had any thoughts on that?
He sure had. He said that the Universities he had worked before had just paid their peer guides. He figured that was just the thing to do! So he totally wanted to change the system. I was so glad to hear that! In my years of organising the peer guides, I had found it hard to ask the students to do for no reward whatsoever things I wouldn't want to do under these circumstances. It just felt wrong! So hopefully, things will change now.
My other question related to the chemistry tower that will be demolished. (I don’t seem to have blogged about this yet.) I am not disputing that it would be a good idea to demolish it, but I was scared that they would put some glossy new building in its place. The previous time the University tore a building down and build something in its place it placed an enormous financial burden on the University, and that had been the reason for the first financial restructuring. Would we now get the third? But he said that the university had enough buildings. There was quite some empty space he said! And I take his word for it. So I was quite reassured. And the other people I spoke with afterwards we are quite impressed too. We might have got a good one! That is hardly something you can take for granted…