My Week – 7 October 2013

A regular update from Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands.

Sir Alan Langlands
With a strange mixture of trepidation and excitement, I finally arrived to take up my new post as Vice-Chancellor on 1 October.  By eight o’clock I had mastered the car-park barrier, the security locks on the Ziff building, the fact that ‘Level 13’ appears to be on the fourth floor, and of course my new computer – not a bad start.

I enjoyed my time at HEFCE but I have missed the diversity, rhythm and idiosyncrasies of life in a university. I met a good mix of staff and students in week one and yet again confirmed my view that understanding how people behave in organisations has less to do with predictive certainty and more to do with the kind of contextual interpretation that I associate with good historians. I want to learn about Leeds through its people, rather than by numbers. I want to help plot our future by understanding how we tick and why.

With this in mind, my week consisted of a series of helpful meetings with colleagues from many parts of the University, including some useful initial discussions with representatives of the trade unions; a glimpse into our partnership with Marks & Spencer; and a meeting with a representative from Ede & Ravenscroft (the academic outfitters) who with masterful diplomacy (and understatement) declared in a hushed tone that I was a “little broader” than Professor Arthur!

I also enjoyed the Varsity match at Headingley, a sell-out occasion. With the patience and optimism of a Scottish rugby fan, I was pleased to see a resurgent University team ‘win’ the second half 12 – 5. Unfortunately the pacey Leeds Met team won the first half 20 – 3. It was a tough, sometimes bruising match but not nearly as spine-chilling as James Brining’s stunning production of Sweeney Todd at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, a decidedly bloody end to my week. I worked with James when he was at Dundee Rep and he will be a big asset to the cultural life of Leeds, his home city.

All of that said, the highlight of my week was a visit to the School of English with its vibrant academic community and inspiring students; its well deserved reputation for real breadth and depth in all periods of English literary history; and its unfailing commitment to creative, cultural and community engagement. As it happens, its top 10 ranking in the UK and top 40 spot in the world mean that the numbers are pretty good too…

Week two beckons.

Sir Alan Langlands

Alan Langlands

7 October 2013

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