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A little while back, it was announced that Paul Wellings, Lancaster University’s Vice Chancellor, is leaving to take up the same position at the University of Wollongong, in Australia. Over the last year I have made no secret that I disagree with a large number of the decisions made by Professor Wellings and the University Management. So I felt it would be fitting to consider what Lancaster may need in a future Vice Chancellor.
First and foremost, a new Vice Chancellor must always consider the opinions and views of students on campus. An example of where the student opinion was not considered is in the closure of the Nurse Unit on campus. The closure of the Unit saw all of the members of staff made redundant and an important service for students was shut down in the name of cost cutting, with little to no consultation with the student body. In taking away this important service, I feel that the Vice Chancellor didn’t consider the student voice important – which led to protests by students. A new Vice Chancellor should take the student voice into more consideration.
Secondly, a new Vice Chancellor should not run the University like a business. Early in the academic year, the University bought the Work Foundation, a failing government thinktank for an undisclosed (but presumably large) amount of money. I felt that this was money that could have been used on raising the quality of our degrees, something that Prof Wellings was championing as a reason for raising tuition fees. The fact that money went into something to benefit the University, rather than the students, when we were being asked to triple the amount of money that we are paying for our degrees, to me is indicative of a business mindset, rather than one based around higher education.
However, Paul Wellings can be proud of the fact that he was at the helm of the University when it found itself as one of the top universities in the country, and ranked 125th in the world. Furthermore, under Wellings student experience ratings have risen, and the University’s international profile has grown. He has transformed the campus for the better, with developments such as the Learning Zone, newer and greener student accommodation and many other developments. It would be hard to argue that the student experience under Wellings hasn’t improved, as he has brought a lot to Lancaster.
However, for a new Vice Chancellor, I sincerely hope that the student voice will be taken into greater consideration. Much as the University has been improved under Wellings, there are many things that have been lost that students feel are vital parts of the University, often in the name of cost cutting. I understand that money needs to be saved during the current economic conditions, but when the University is spending vast amounts of money on bankrupt thinktanks with no student consultation, it makes you wonder if the money could be better spent on those services that students use and need. A new Vice Chancellor should put the students of Lancaster first, and make sure that spending on their welfare is prioritised over other projects.
I wish Paul Wellings the best of luck in his new position as Vice Chancellor at Wollongong. He has improved the conditions at Lancaster over the years, with many building projects and investment into student satisfaction. In the future though I would like to see more communication with the students, and for our own welfare to be put over commercial enterprises for the University. The students at Lancaster University need a Vice Chancellor who will put them first, as the student body are the core of a university. Our welfare must come first, and support for our degrees is of utmost importance if the University is to continue to be as successful as it was under Wellings.