Canterbury Christ Church names new v-c
Robin Baker says changes in sector make time right for move. Melanie Newman reports
Robin Baker is to be Canterbury Christ Church University’s next vice-chancellor.
Dr Baker, currently vice-chancellor of the University of Chichester and a former pro vice-chancellor of the University of Kent, will take up his new post on 1 September, after incumbent Michael Wright retires.
A specialist in Eastern European languages and history, Dr Baker was deputy director-general of the British Council from 2002 to 2005, with responsibility for global operations. He joined Chichester in April 2007.
“I know Canterbury Christ Church well because of my time at Kent, and I see a lot of Michael because both our universities are members of the Cathedrals Group [formerly the Council of Church Colleges and Universities],” he told Times Higher Education.
The rapid changes in the landscape of higher education made this the right time to move, he added.
“Pretty much every institution is going to need a fundamental strategic review, so it’s a good time strategically to be going somewhere new,” he said.
“Similarly, Chichester will benefit from fresh eyes – everything I did was developed on the basis of a different funding environment.”
He praised Professor Wright, who he said had achieved “extraordinary things” at Canterbury.
“On average, universities have increased their turnover by 100 per cent since 1997; Canterbury’s turnover has increased by 150 per cent.
“Michael has taken it from a teacher-training college – and not a particularly large or well-known one – to what it is today, with campuses all over Kent, 16,000 students and a £100 million turnover, which by any reckoning is very impressive.”
Some within the sector have suggested that Canterbury’s three universities – the others being the University for the Creative Arts and the University of Kent – should merge.
Dr Baker dismissed this possibility. “These are extremely successful universities that all believe that they can make a stronger contribution as separate institutions,” he said. Collaboration between the three was already taking place, he added.
Peter Hermitage, chair of governors and pro-chancellor at Canterbury, said: “Dr Baker has the experience and expertise to lead the university, and to build on the achievements of Professor Wright. I look forward to working with him.”
Derek Jenkins, chair of governors at Chichester, added: “We are very sorry to be losing Robin, who has developed and implemented a clear and challenging strategy during his three years with us, as a result of which Chichester has developed considerably… It is undoubtedly now a key player in the education scene locally, regionally, nationally and, in certain respects, internationally.”
Clive Behagg, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Chichester, has been appointed to lead the institution until the end of the next academic year 2010-11.
Derek Jenkins, chair of governors, said Professor Behagg would continue implementing the university’s Unlocking the Potential strategy, which was drawn up by Robin Baker, the outgoing vice-chancellor.
He will be designated chief executive of the university from 1 March.