Byline: Andrew Mernin reports
AS someone who plays drums for his 15-year-old son's heavy metal band, Steve Williams seems fairly down with the kids for an IT executive.
However, in his new role as Newcastle University's IT director, that is exactly what he doesn't want to be.
"We need to provide students with tools that they need and not do things that make us look like dancing dad, such as setting up a flashy Facebook page.
"It's not for us to try and be down with the kids - we will provide process support and enable them to plan and develop in the way that they want to by themselves."
Mr Williams, an ex-ICI executive and the former head of ICT at Sunderland Council, joins the university in a period of huge transition and at a time when the school has its eyes on international expansion.
"The university is doing a lot of building work at the moment on the campus, so obviously all those new buildings will require IT infrastructure.
"We are looking to teach Newcastle University programmes in a number of different countries, although plans are at early stages.
"If you are running university courses in Asia and you are looking to achieve high quality thousands of miles away, that puts pressure on the IT system."
At home, the university's research team is liaising with tech firms as they look to break new ground in mobile technology - a field Mr Williams believes will change the face of learning.
He said: "More and more people are looking to use mobile devices so we are looking at developing different channels.
"We are working on a project at the moment with the university's researchers and researchers from some mobile phone companies to look at what sort of devices would make most sense in the future.
"There's the potential for various things to be commercialised and I am also looking to create potential spin-off organisations from the university which could generate jobs in the North East."
As well as mobile firms, the director is also planning on working more closely with local businesses and public sector bodies.
"With the development of Science City in Newcastle over the next few years, there will be closer links between the university and local IT companies. There's a lot of work going on for shared services in the public sector and I am already talking to representatives from Newcastle Council and two or three other councils and other organisations."
As an IT veteran who finds himself in the relatively unfamiliar territory of education, Mr Williams has been striving to get to grips with the ethos of the university since his appointment in the summer and he appears to be relishing the challenge. …