Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Heavy-Hitting Heads Who Could Wear the Crown

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Heavy-Hitting Heads Who Could Wear the Crown

Article excerpt

Businessman-cum-academic may be holy grail for UCL's leadership search. Elizabeth Gibney writes.

Leaders of internationally recognised universities and senior industry executives with academic experience are the most likely contenders to succeed Malcolm Grant as president and provost of University College London.

The university has appointed a selection committee, which includes academics, members of the UCL board and one student, to find the successor to lead the institution once Professor Grant retires in September 2013.

Alongside headhunters Odgers Berndtson, the committee will come up with a shortlist by November and a decision by the end of the year.

Alex Acland, higher education specialist in the London office of Heidrick & Struggles, another headhunting company, told Times Higher Education that the search will mostly encompass established leaders with impressive academic careers, sourced from within the world's top 50 institutions.

Although in-depth knowledge of the UK higher education landscape would be an asset, especially in such turbulent times, UCL's global "brand" means that the candidate need not be British nor have worked in the UK, he said.

"Put it this way: when Chelsea look for their next manager I doubt they'll be doing what the FA has done and insist on a UK manager. It'll be the best person," he said.

Despite UCL's strong existing team of vice-provosts, recruiting internally is unlikely, he added.

"The top (universities) do tend to look outside. It's hard for internals to re-establish their credentials at the top level, but that's not to say they can't."

For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently appointed L. Rafael Reif, its provost and a member of staff for 32 years, as president. He will take up the post next month.

Recruiting from outside higher education also happens only rarely. But given UCL's size and Pounds 800 million budget, finding an academic leader who also has business experience would be the holy grail, said Mr Acland, citing Sir Richard Sykes, former rector of Imperial College London and chairman of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline as an example.

UCL's search is likely to be affected by Imperial also being on the lookout for new leaders: a president and rector to replace Sir Keith O'Nions when he retires at the end of 2013, as well as a provost. …

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