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As the term draws to a close and the University prepares for a new admission cycle, we can all be proud of the many achivements of this institution, but we would be foolish to walk away believing the future was all sweetness and light for Lancaster University.
A shameful lack of competence in areas of the University that are crucial to the institution’s sustainability, reputation and recruiting potential are a reality as everyone prepares for the planning period of summer.
The senior management team of the University must swallow their pride and accept mistakes made in the recruitment of some key, senior people within the University.
Institutional oversight and management of our ever expanding collaborative provision and the quality assurance of teaching, learning and student services must also be a primary focus for the University. It is not political instability that is the greatest threat to the sustainability of oversees partnerships and collaborations but the real possibility of failing to ensure and assure that required quality and standards are being met.
Cutting key student-centred services will also be a slippery slope for a historically collegiate University; aiming to increase revenue from necessary services (printing and car parking) will also only serve to anger students and staff, thus damaging an already tested student and staff morale.
Ill thought out redundancy strategies, which have little if any benefit to the University must also be stopped immediately. Relationships and community are Lancaster’s unique selling point and narrow-minded chair shuffling by middle-management cannot be allowed to undermine this. It is also interesting that when senior managers or leading academics talk about the need for redundancies or job cuts, they are never talking about their own jobs.
With success comes great responsibility; one particular pressure point for the University over the coming months will be student accommodation provision. It may well be true that we have one of the highest proportions of oncampus student residences in the Uk but the University’s strategy (or lack of) in this area could lead to serious problems. Filling on-campus rooms to the maximum, with further waiting lists in many colleges, along with a student housing market in Lancaster, which is full to the brim and already under significant pressure from new legislation and an increase in numbers from UCUM students moving to Lancaster, does not bode well for the university.
For all my misgivings with the University over the past two years as president, all I have ever strived to do is support the University in achieving the best it possibly can; in the coming months the University will ignore advice and warning from its community at its peril.
The University management team must also always remember that it achieves success through the dedication and passion of its staff and students. Senior managers must reflect on decisions and accep when their judgement is wrong. Reflection is a key part of leadership, so here are a few reflections of mine:
To those academics who questioned, constructively criticised and challenged senior management on their strategy and direction for the University; I applaud you. To those academics who have consigned themselves to the ‘payroll vote’ and allowed themselves, as rigorous intellectuals to be subdued by technocrats and mangers with little if any experience of HE; you are an embarrassment to your profession.
To those who have ensured our campus is a clean, safe and enjoyable environment; students are forever indebted to you.
To college staff who have invested time in creating a vibrant and exciting student experience; students are eternally grateful.
To the hundreds of student officers I have had the pleasure of working with; you have led where others have criticised, you have stood in opposition where others have capitulated, but most of all you have made a real positive difference to your University and for that you should all be immensely proud.
It simply remains for me to say: I owe a great debt of gratitude to all of those who have supported and helped me over the last two years. Thank you to those who have criticised and challenged me. Good luck to those who I have worked closely with and farewell to those who have lacked independence of thought and courage in their convictions.