Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Anthony Seldon Sets out His Ideals and Goals for Buckingham

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Anthony Seldon Sets out His Ideals and Goals for Buckingham

Article excerpt

Liberal thinking, teaching quality and pastoral care are top of the list. Matthew Reisz reports

As Britain's first private university when it received its royal charter in 1983, the University of Buckingham has always generated strong feelings.

It was run from 2001 until recently by Terence Kealey, a passionate believer in free markets whose book on The Economic Laws of Scientific Research, he once told Times Higher Education,"stated quite categorically that governments should not fund science or higher education".

The new vice-chancellor, Sir Anthony Seldon, took over in September after close to a decade as master of Wellington College. So what are his values and plans for the controversial institution?

"I'm not a free-market ideologue," he says, "though I believe that Britain is much the stronger for an independent sector in education...Those who are independent should not mimic what the state-funded institutions are doing but use their freedoms to offer alternatives."

Seldon has written or edited about 40 books, many on recent prime ministers, and believes that those running universities should "carry on offering academic leadership in their disciplines". This is reflected in his vision of Buckingham as a prestigious not-for-profit university, strong in research and focusing on "programmes which are deeply academic, not quick degrees in accountancy".

He also wants it to be a place that dares to "look at and challenge orthodoxy. That's a passion of mine, because government, the London and academic establishments have orthodoxies that need to be probed."

While happy to welcome thinkers of all political stripes, Seldon acknowledges that "our particular contribution is more likely to be in the free-market, libertarian, liberal traditions in which this university was founded than in, say, the study of Marxism or central control systems. I'm very open to having outstanding academics with those interests, but the centre of gravity is more likely to be on the liberal side."

Plans to grow

Although it is still early days and Seldon is not putting forward detailed proposals for the university's future until next March, he is definitely keen to expand the university: "Two thousand students is not big enough. I'd like to see us increase to 5,000 on different campuses within 10 years."

He points to scope for growth in medicine - Buckingham launched the UK's first private medical school this year - with the development of a "medical hub" that could bring in disciplines such as dentistry. …

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