LS speaks to the new Vice Chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands
What will you do differently to the last VC?
I think Vice Chancellors are sort of temporary stewards of Universities and each one makes some sort of different contribution. He [Michael Arthur] made a strong contribution, in the way that he put absolute focus on academic excellence. I see it as my job to build on that, not to somehow undermine it.
How much do rankings matter to you?
I see league tables as consequences of academic success, rather than an end in themselves. I’d rather see them as an expression of the University doing well. As you know, Leeds is a Russell Group University and I think it should be striving to be in the top half of that group.
What was the best thing about being a student at the University of Glasgow?
I developed an interest there in biological sciences which has stuck with me all through my working life. If I’m honest I didn’t have a great time at university in terms of things that were having in my family life. so there was a lot of stuff in my life that I was coping with whilst coping with my studies and I think one downside is I didn’t feel I got a great lot of support from the university. That has transformed nowadays and I think the whole notion of supporting students and the wellbeing of students and not just worrying about their day to day studies is an important part of what universities do now.
How did your last job affect your view on uni funding?
I went to The Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) before the 2010 election, so I had no idea that the incoming Government would raise tuition fees. I said quite openly at the time that I didn’t like the £9,000 fee. The government went too far too quickly.
Do you think that higher fees put more pressure on students to perform?
I think students probably put more pressure on themselves to perform but there’s also much more pressure on universities. The University needs to justify to each and every student that what they’re getting is value for their money.
Some UK universities are trialling a points based degree system. Would you consider this for Leeds?
The Higher Education Academy are planning a pilot scheme so that they can select a number of University volunteers to try this out, running this points system alongside the traditional degree qualifications. The idea is to give more detail and texture to employers. We’ve got until the end of this month to decide whether we want Leeds to volunteer as a pilot University, but we haven’t talked about that decision yet.