VC's week - 12 December 2012 - my new appointment and the future for Leeds

A regular update from Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur.

Professor Michael Arthur

As many of you may already have heard, it was announced on Monday evening that I shall be leaving the University next year. I have been offered – and have accepted – appointment as the next President and Provost of University College London (UCL), succeeding Professor Malcolm Grant who is stepping down next September.

Next summer it will be nine years since I took up my appointment as Vice-Chancellor of Leeds. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here, and believe that together we have made great strides forward – in many, many ways. Leeds is a truly great university, with enormous potential, and I think I can truly say that the UCL job is the only one which would have tempted me to leave. The process to recruit my successor is starting immediately; further details will be published on For Staff within the next week or so.

I will of course continue to serve Leeds wholeheartedly for the remainder of my time here, and help guide the University over the next few months with the support of the senior team. We remain focused on our key priorities next year of submitting a strong return to the Research Excellence Framework (REF), undergraduate and postgraduate recruitment, and delivering an outstanding experience for all of our students, whilst continuing the work started this autumn to refresh our University strategy. We should not be deflected from the latter just because I am moving on. It is not my strategy, it belongs to all of you – it is our University strategy, it has guided us well and, at its core, it is enduring. We are on a very important journey and we must continue to pursue our destination with vigour. You know that I would expect nothing less.

Some may worry that my announcement and eventual departure signals impending problems for the University of Leeds. It does not – we are in good shape financially and are coping well with the downturn in student numbers this year. It is true that we need to focus on improving student recruitment for 2013, but I am confident that all the hard work that has gone in this year will be effective.

There have, of course, been one or two side comments about my personal leap into the top 50! I will take all of that on the chin – at one level, I expected such dark humour. If you lead an academic institution of our quality, you expect the occasional potshot, but you quickly learn to shrug it off and focus on what really matters.

One of the very positive aspects of the last few days has been the extraordinary way in which our peers, and other commentators externally, now see the University of Leeds – they have all noticed our improving performance and I believe that we have been 'noticed and admired' as one of the giants of the sector.

Another very warming aspect of my announcement has been the tremendous number of personal messages I have received from many of you, congratulating me on my appointment at UCL. The content of those messages has, at times, had me in tears – quite literally. There has been such kindness and goodwill, but what I am most proud of is that they have come from all around the University – academic, professional and support staff alike, as well as students and alumni. This more than anything encourages me greatly, because it signals that we are working together, that we have achieved a great deal, and will continue so to do, way beyond my departure.

Finally, this will be my last 'VC’s Week' before Christmas. I would like to thank colleagues for all their efforts and hard work during what has been a momentous year in higher education. I hope the Christmas break will give you and your families a chance to relax and enjoy a happy and peaceful festive season.


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