VC's week - 25 March 2013 - The new Vice-Chancellor

Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur comments on the appointment of Sir Alan Langlands as the next Vice-Chancellor.

Professor Michael Arthur

Let me be the first publicly to congratulate Sir Alan Langlands on his appointment as the next Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds. This is a fantastic appointment for the University and I am delighted that I will be succeeded by such an experienced and distinguished figure in UK Higher Education.

I am also delighted that Alan wanted to come to Leeds - it says a great deal about how far the University has come and how much we have all achieved.  In my conversations with him (which he requested as part of his preparations for the interview) he was very complimentary about the University, our profile, and our professionalism -  it was very clear that he regards the University of Leeds as a very serious and mature organisation and a key player amongst the UK's research intensive universities and the Russell Group. There is no doubt in my mind that he shares our ambition for world class academic excellence as the hallmark of our strategy - now and forever.

It is just over three months since I announced my departure to become the next President and Provost of UCL. In that short time, the University formed an appointing committee with members from both Senate and Council (and a student representative), searched and advertised widely, and has moved speedily and effectively to appoint a truly outstanding candidate. Impressive, to say the least.  I think we should all congratulate our University Secretary, Roger Gair - I detect his influence in this rapid, yet accurate process, that has achieved a unanimous, timely, and very 'settling' appointment.

Sir Alan Langlands will, I believe, be only the twelfth Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds. For the record the others have been - in chronological order - Sir Nathan Bodington (1904-5), Sir Michael Sadler (1911-23), Sir James Baillie (1924-38), Bernard Jones (1938-48), Sir Charles Morris (1948-63), Sir Roger Stevens (1963-70), the Rt Hon Lord Boyle of Handsworth (1970-81), William Walsh (acting VC, 1981-83), Sir Edward Parkes (1983-91), Sir Alan Wilson (1991-2004) and yours truly (2004-13).  I put this list together because I wanted an 'easy to find' reminder of my time here and of my fellow predecessor Vice-Chancellors.  I also thought it would be a handy list for Alan!

Alan will, of course, bring his own style and expertise to the role. It is difficult to think of anyone better suited to these more volatile times in higher education. As current Chief Executive of HEFCE, he has an up to date and unrivalled knowledge of all the changes to HE funding, both recent and possibly future! He is very well connected in Whitehall, in both the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department of Health, and he knows well 'the back stairway to the Treasury'. He has also been a highly successful Vice-Chancellor in the past at Dundee as well as an excellent previous Chief Executive, at a very young age, of the entire NHS for six years.  On top of all of this, Alan is clearly a very thoughtful and 'human' leader who has a reputation for being great to work with and for, and I know that he will be sorely missed by his colleagues at HEFCE. (sorry folks!).

Of course, such a great appointment also lets me off the hook (at least a bit) for leaving Leeds to go to UCL - about which you have all been very generous and understanding. I intend to enjoy every minute of my remaining time here and I assure you that I will remain wholly committed to Leeds until I leave to take up my new post. There will be no lame quacking from me (or you!) and I will be working closely with Alan to ensure a seamless handover over the next few months. He is welcome at the University any time he wishes to come - at times it might be very helpful for there to be a 'dual VC' presence.

I am scheduled to meet Alan this week. The original reason for the occasion was for me to pick Alan's brains about London's higher education. As it turns out, the meeting will now have a dual purpose. As it is, for both of us, our last engagement before the Easter break, Alan has offered to buy the drinks.


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