With the way universities are funded and managed changing, bathimpact spoke with Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell about how the University of Bath aims to deal with these challenges:
Firstly, to avoid any confusion, what does your role as Vice Chancellor of the University of Bath involve?
Acting as the University’s Chief Executive, senior academic, leading fundraiser and loudest public advocate.
What has been the greatest success achieved since your tenure as Vice Chancellor began?
The University has succeeded in responding to an increasing demand for study at Bath whilst both enhancing our reputation for providing an outstanding student experience and continuing to conduct academic research of the very highest quality and impact. During my time here we have invested in the infrastructure and services we provide to both students and staff meaning we have been able to provide more beds on campus; better facilities for teaching & research; a sector-leading Sports Training Village; a new Students’ Union Centre; and most recently an enhanced environment for the creative arts in The Edge.
What is your favourite thing about the University of Bath?
The warmth of the welcome of the University community, and the wonderful achievements of colleagues and students.
At a time of perceived discrepancies in pay and disputes over pensions, how would you justify the recent increases in yoursalary to University of Bath students?
It is my responsibility to perform my role as Vice-Chancellor to the very best of my abilities and I am very happy to be held accountable for my performance. I am accountable to the University’s governing body – Council, a sub-committee of which assesses the performance of senior staff, including myself, on an annual basis and determines remuneration.
In February you signed a letter opposing a reduction in tuition fees to £6,000 as unreasonable. What position does the University take on tuition fees as a whole?
The funding of Higher Education in this country is through a national framework. Bath like all universities has to operate within this framework. Our goal is to ensure that the education of our students is properly funded. If we are to continue to produce world-class academic research and provide the fully-rounded educational experience our students deserve and appreciate then the resources required to deliver this must be in place. Any future government’s policy on tuition fees and HE funding needs to ensure it does not put the future financial sustainability of the sector at risk.
You told Bath Life magazine that “higher education is a big business”? If this is true, should higher education act as a business and if so, what is the University of Bath’s core business strategy?
The Higher Education sector is indeed a major sector of the UK PLC generating enormous economic value and societal benefit through the innovative research it conducts and the education services it provides. We have a statutory responsibility to be on a sound financial footing if we are to be able to continue to fulfil our core purpose to deliver world class research and teaching. All of our activities are informed by the requirement to ensure we have the resource, including the financial resource, to be able to fulfil this mission.
The University of Bath University and College’s Union (UCU) has said that the University of Bath has been “very aggressive in welcoming changes” which marketise universities (tuition fees, student debts, removal of student numbers controls and block grants etc.). Is this a fair assessment, and if universities are indeed facing marketisation, is that necessarily a bad thing?
We have welcomed the opportunity to grow in response to the increasing numbers of students who want to come to Bath whilst continuing to improve the quality of both our research and teaching. We are the only university in the country which has seen a year-on-year increase in student applications since the introduction of the new funding system. Higher education is a competitive global business and we work hard to ensure our position amongst the elite institutions.
The University of Bath is ‘first for student satisfaction’ nationally, but frequently falls short to ‘competitor universities’ on international rankings which pay less attention to student satisfaction (QS Ranking, THEWUR). How does the University bridge this reputational gap between the ‘national’ and ‘international’?
The building blocks to raise our international reputation have been put in place including the appointment of a Pro-Vice Chancellor to lead on the internationalisation agenda; the launch of an international relations office; and the establishment of several new partnerships with leading universities from around the world. We can all play our part in this strategy if we tell everyone we come into contact with what it is like to study at Bath, the many achievements of our students and staff, and what makes this place so special. This is certainly what I do when I meet with alumni around the world and I encourage you all to do the same.
Do you read bathimpact?
Yes of course. It is good that we have such an active media group here at the University.