Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Article excerpt

Lord Myners served as financial services secretary in the Treasury during Gordon Brown's Labour government. He initially worked in the financial sector at investment bank Rothschild and was chair of Marks and Spencer from 2004 to 2006. In December he was appointed chair of London School of Economics' court of governors and of its council

Where and when were you born?

I was born on 1 April 1948. I was adopted by a Cornish couple. My father was a fisherman and shopkeeper and my mother a hairdresser. I had no siblings.

How has this shaped you?

Independence and appreciation of the role of luck in life.

What is your most important responsibility as chair of governors/council?

To promote high-quality decision- making. The court and council are unambiguously and collectively accountable for institutional activities and reputation. This requires a focus on purpose, respect for values including academic freedom, and effective controls.

What should be the balance between the chair of the council and the vice-chancellor (or the director, in LSE's case) in challenging and supporting them on major management decisions?

The chair should be a critical friend. A mentor. A supporting voice during tough times and a restraining influence when necessary. Although this implies a degree of intimacy and trust, the chair needs to maintain some distance in order to ensure impartiality and objectivity in reviewing the director's performance.

Vice-chancellors have drawn criticism for their rising salary levels. Is this fair?

Widening disparity of income and wealth are facts of life. We can't ignore it, although that doesn't mean we have to like it. We have a duty to explain our approach to pay across the whole organisation from top to bottom, and evidence that money is well spent.

What are UK universities' biggest strengths and weaknesses?

Strength in diversity and freedom of thoughts; weakness in institutional rigidity, silo structures and attachment to tradition.

Do you fear for the sustainability of university finances?

No. We have to cope with new realities. For the LSE this means listening even more attentively to students, being honest about all forms of cross-subsidisation and where necessary challenging them; developing new revenue sources consistent with our values. …

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