Serial Vice-Chancellors

Who’d be a Vice-Chancellor?  Graham Upton is now leading his sixth higher education provider.  He’s had five interim roles, for example, taking over at Birmingham City.  He’s not the first experienced VC to take on the task as acting as an interim leader: Sir William Taylor took on two interim roles having been director of the Institute of Education, Principal of the University of London and Vice-Chancellor at Hull.

We have certainly seen the rise of the serial Vice-Chancellor.  The role is more fraught than in previous times, and it is clear that governing bodies are looking out for people who can demonstrate that they’ve got the skills and experience to do the job.  With an existing VC there’s a track record to check, and so there’s a growing number of people who’ve done this.

6Professor Graham UptonOxford Brookes, Cumbria, Glyndwr, Birmingham City, Bangor, SOAS
5Sir William TaylorInstitute of Education, London, Hull, Huddersfield, TVU
3Sir Graham DaviesLiverpool, Glasgow, London
Sir Hector HetheringtonExeter, Liverpool, Glasgow
Alfred MorrisUWE, Lampeter, London Metropolitan
Sir Howard Newby*Southampton, UWE, Liverpool
2Professor Cara AitchisonSt Mark & St John, Cardiff Metropolitan
Professor Michael ArthurLeeds, UCL
Dr Robin BakerChichester, Canterbury Christchurch
Professor Graham BaldwinSolent, UCLAN
Dame Janet BeerOxford Brookes, Liverpool
Sir David BellReading, Sunderland
Professor Tim BlackmanMiddlesex, Open
Sir Drummond BoneRoyal Holloway, Liverpool
Professor Paul Boyle Leicester, Swansea
Professor Rebecca BuntingBuckinghamshire New, Bedfordshire
Professor Brian Cantor York, Bradford
Sir Paul CurranBournemouth, City
Sir David Eastwood*UEA, Birmingham
Professor Nick FoskettKeele, Bath Spa
Professor Malcolm GiliesCity, London Metropolitan
Sir Peter GregsonQueens, Cranfield
Sir Martin HarrisEssex, Manchester
Sir David HarrisonKeele, Exeter
Sir Alan Langlands*Dundee, Leeds
Professor Koen LambertsYork, Sheffield
Professor Simon LeeLiverpool Hope, Leeds Metropolitan
Professor Carl LygoBPP, Arden
Professor David MaguireGreenwich, Dundee
Sir David Melville*Middlesex, Kent
Sir Anton MuscatelliHerriot Watt, Glasgow
Sir Edward Parkes*City, Leeds
Professor Louise RichardsonSt Andrews, Oxford
Professor Colin RiordanEssex, Cardiff
Sir Hugh RobsonSheffield, Edinburgh
Professor Mark E SmithLancaster, Southampton
Sir Christopher SnowdonSurrey, Southampton
Professor Karen StantonYork St John, Southampton Solent
Professor David TidmarshAnglia, Birmingham City
Sir Rick TrainorGreenwich, Kings
Professor David VanderLindeBath, Warwick

I have not included people who were heads of constituent institutions and then vice-chancellors of federal universities (London, Wales or Victoria) under rotational systems where the VC was a part-time role.   Four of these (marked*) also intercalated a term at UGC, HEFCE or FEFC into their career; requiring them to leave a VC role, but being snapped up when they left the funding body.  It doesn’t include the international transfer market, where both Oxford and Cambridge have recruited VCs who have led universities elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

This isn’t a foolproof scheme, however.  Robin Baker followed his short stay at Chichester with a short stay at Canterbury.   Bowen & McPherson (2016) point to potential problems when it’s clear that a leader will be looking to move on after a few years; that they won’t make necessary changes, preferring to manage the day-to-day business and then move on.  Part of that process is they might also focus on quick wins, the things that might achieve a league table boost, and again not make long-term difficult decisions.    It must also be a feature in the rise in VC salaries – tempting an established leader to move may involve a pay rise. Keeping an established leader  (who may or may not be getting offers) may also involve a pay rise.

Cursiter, Stanley; Sir Hector Hetherington (1888-1965); Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow;

But, it’s still probably a good bet.  Among the many good leaders who’ve lead more than one university is Sir Hector Hetherington.  A professor at 27, he became Principal of the University College of the South West aged 32.  He subsequently led Liverpool and Glasgow. Twice chair of CVCP, this is the account of his last meeting there:

He made his last appearance at the Vice-Chancellor’s Committee shortly before he retired… in 1961.  As he was about to leave to keep another engagement, the Chairman gave a short valedictory speech.  Then as Hetherington rose and walked slowly towards the door the whole Committee rose spontaneously and stood in silence until he had gone. No other Vice Chancellor had ever received from his peers such a tribute of affectionate regard. He had been the executive head of a College or University almost continuously for over forty years and attained unprecedented supremacy of respect.   (Illingworth 1971 p105)

I’m sure this will continue, although it’s important to note that every serial Vice-Chancellor has to have a first appointment somewhere.  Maybe governors somewhere will advertise for a training vice-chancellorship, one that’s good for a first role…

[updated after being reminded of more distinguished names – but there may be more…] 

*  Graham Upton’s fifth role, was at Bangor, from January – August 2019

Bowen W & McPherson M, 2016, Lesson Plan, Princeton University Press
Illingworth, C, 1971, University Statesman: Sir Hector Hetherington, George Outram