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New vice-chancellor in town

I for one am quite hopeful about what ideas the new V-C will bring and think we should all give him a chance as long as there is an keen effort to communicate with students.

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Perhaps you are aware that York has a new arrival. At the moment you may just know him as that bloke from Warwick but this time next year he will be the chief occupant of Heslington Hall. Professor Koen Lamberts will take over as Vice-Chancellor in January 2014, after Brian Cantor stands down from his bumpy ten year reign at the University.

Don't get me wrong Cantor has had some notable achievements; University of the Year in 2010, entry into the prestigious Russell Group and arguably the Hes East expansion has been a massive success. He's even picked up a CBE for himself in the process. But the status quo isn't good enough. The relationship between students and the V-C is close to non-existent, amongst other problems at York.

It may sound trivial but how many of you have actually seen Brian Cantor? I have twice; once bravely running the risk of bumping into students walking through the quiet place, and the other, perhaps unsurprisingly, rolling out of the red brick headquarters of Hes Hall in his Jaguar. I don't hold any grudges against Brian, despite my disappointment at not getting a lift in his upmarket mode of transport, but there are problems he hasn't addressed. Visibility is one of these. Students need to know what the Vice-Chancellor does, and actually see him actively carrying out his duties. How can the V-C understand what matters to students without going out and meeting them? At the very least it would make students feel they can speak to the University about their problems.

York's academic record has also suffered in the last ten years with modest performances in the rankings, and although they don't mean everything the top ten is where York belongs. We may be in the Russell Group, but consistent rankings and standards should be a key aim for the new V-C, as well as targeting the low levels of student satisfaction at York.

I was recently spouting forth my irresponsible advice to some fresher friends giving them the whole "first year doesn't really count go and get drunk" line. But their response actually highlighted something. "We are paying nine grand though, even for first year so we have to do well. I want to feel like I've achieved something rather than just wasting the money."

Maybe some of us have lost track of our purpose at university, distracted by the allure of drinking games and questionable nightclubs in town, but this is a serious point. Even if the grades don't count at the end of it, first year matters now. Nine grand means all students need value for money, not just second and third years, but freshers as well. The new V-C needs to ensure that those paying more, and those fortunate enough to pay less, get the quality teaching and university experience they deserve no matter what stage they are at.

One more issue which is endemic at York is there is huge wastage and secrecy across the board, and this currently stems from the top. We need a clean Vice-Chancellor; no chalets, no chauffeurs. Any move to give greater transparency as to what actually goes on in Heslington Hall would be more than welcome.

YUSU President, Kallum Taylor says he is "delighted with the appointment" and describes Lamberts as a "very approachable and down to earth Vice-Chancellor".This is a promising start and if this is the case then Koen Lamberts sounds like just the person York needs. Perhaps 'Special K' and 'Prof K', or whatever nickname he gets, will make a good team but this is another crucial aspect where we need change.

One face to face meeting a term is all the YUSU President gets with the current V-C. Yes, just one. This is nothing short of laziness or complete disinterest on the University's part. The V-C should have far more interaction with the head of the student body and this is one easy way both visibility and the student experience can be improved.

I for one am quite hopeful about what ideas the new V-C will bring and think we should all give him a chance as long as there is an keen effort to communicate with students, and address the the key problems, but please no limos.

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Kathryn Posted on Thursday 21 Mar 2013



Margaret Posted on Thursday 21 Mar 2013