Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Dame Not Keen on XX Quota System: News

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Dame Not Keen on XX Quota System: News

Article excerpt

Edinburgh Napier's outgoing v-c rejects 'tick-box' approach to governance. David Matthews reports.

After more than 10 years at the helm of Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland's first female vice-chancellor has spoken out against government interference and quotas for women on governing bodies.

Dame Joan Stringer, who led what is now Queen Margaret University for six years before her decade at Edinburgh Napier, will retire at the end of June amid uncertainty in the Scottish sector over funding, autonomy and national independence.

Michael Russell, Scotland's education secretary, has expressed support for a series of university governance reforms recommended by a review chaired by Ferdinand von Prondzynski, vice-chancellor of Robert Gordon University, which reported last year. One of its most controversial recommendations is that at least four in 10 governing body members should be female.

But in an interview with Times Higher Education, Dame Joan said she would "avoid quotas" because they could lead to "cosmetic", "tick-box" appointments.

"You need the best people for the role," she said, although she added that it was crucial for universities "to be mindful of the need to have as diverse a body as is appropriate".

When she became vice-chancellor of Edinburgh Napier, Dame Joan was Scotland's first female university leader, but now four other institutions (out of a total of 19) have women at the helm, a proportion she describes as "reasonable".

"It's not quite as far as I would have liked it to come in 10 years but at least we're making inroads," she said. "There's acceptance in the sector that it's not an unusual thing. …

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