HE&me

The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, December 22, 2016 | Go to article overview

HE&me


Jeremy Irons trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and has appeared in a wide variety of films from The French Lieutenant's Woman to The Lion King. In 1991, he won an Oscar for his role in Reversal of Fortune. He is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, a patron of the Chiltern Shakespeare Company, and he holds an honorary degree from Southampton Solent University. He was recently inaugurated as the first chancellor of Bath Spa University

Where and when were you born?

Cowes, Isle of Wight, in 1948.

How has this shaped you?

I went to boarding school when I was seven and it taught me the importance of family because we were together for only a third of the year.

What motivated you to take on the role at Bath Spa, considering that you have not been involved in higher education before?

It was an unexpected door opening. When I was invited [to take on the role], I felt unqualified but was convinced by Christina Slade, the vice-chancellor, and her board. I thought, well, I can give what I can give and it will be a very steep learning curve. I like that; I will always enjoy what life throws at me.

What do you hope to achieve as chancellor?

One of the things that Bath Spa focuses on is the link between culture and creativity and enterprise and the humanities. I think of myself as having rounded interests with some interest in politics, horses, sport, sailing, theatre, film-making, painting and architecture. I hope that my disparate interests can encourage the spirit that is already at Bath; that of cross-culturalisation between disciplines.

The Spiked rankings of free speech on campus have rated Bath Spa as a 'hostile' environment for free speech. Where do you stand on the issue of campus censorship?

I am entirely against that attitude. I hope that when I finish my chancellorship, Bath Spa will be seen as a place where individual expression of thought is admired. I think that university is a place for debate, outrage, and for putting forward and debating contentious ideas. It should be a place where you experiment with where you stand in life. If you don't do that at university, where in God's name are you going to do it? Of course, we should be kind to each other and understand each other's perspectives but we must [also] be robust and challenge each other. I hate the idea that people could be attacked for saying what they think.

In Europe and the US, the populist Right has been using emotional appeals to win support. What could progressive politicians do to combat this?

I think that the vote for Donald Trump was very similar to the vote for Brexit. …

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