On a sunny Monday morning, I met up with the Principal, Professor Paul Layzell, to discuss the launch of his new manifesto. This is what he had to say:
“The manifesto is about trying to set out the things we can do during a period of considerable change, so that we can be better at the end of that period than when we went into it. We’re starting from a pretty strong position as number 88 in the world, that’s good for everybody. There are five things we’ve put in to the manifesto:
We want the best staff and the best academic content for students on our programmes. We want to make our research activity more alive, not just for postgraduates, but at undergraduate level. You’re being taught by the people who write the books, not just teach from them. As you get into second and third years, there should be a strong link to the ground-breaking research that those people are doing. I’d also quite like us to have the facility to be able to easily record lectures. I don’t think people would stop going to lectures, but it would allow you to play them back when revising.
Community and the people
We’ve got a very strong international thread in the college, both staff and students, and we want to celebrate and use that diversity more effectively. There is a threat to this, as the government’s proposals concerning visas could damage the flow of international students and I think there are some politicians who don’t see the value of having international students. I think they add richness to university culture and give us an opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds. We also need to make more of other activities, such as volunteering, sports clubs and the massive entrepreneur’s society. As we go into an environment where students are going to be asked to contribute more for their education, we have to ask the question: why is it better to come to Royal Holloway? The answer is, in part, because of this diversity and the range of activities.
The place itself
The library is just not big enough. It is unacceptable that students are unable to find study spaces. We’ve got some good quality teaching accommodation, but it’s not all as good as it should be. We’ve got some fledgling ideas to build an extension on the back of the library, which will have some books in it I’m sure, but it’s not just about making a bigger library, it’s about making it the centre of student life with more informal study space. It would also allow us to bring together things such as the student support service, careers service and the finance office in one location and be much more convenient. We also need to make sure we can meet the demand for student housing. We’re not a big city location with lots of providers; getting accommodation around here can be difficult.
Everything from our green credentials, where there are some challenging targets to reduce our carbon footprint, through to operating in way in which the books balance. Although we get about one-third of our funding from government, we are not public sector, if we go bust there is nobody to bail us out. Our income is about £130 million a year and we’re about to lose £31 million through the cuts. We want some financial stability in the system so that we can think about developing staff, introducing new courses, the normal business of running a university without going from one financial crisis to the next.
Value for money
Obviously as the fees go up, we have to consider the cost of a degree and the value. We’ve got to be much clearer about why it’s worth coming to university. I think there is a real danger that students will be put off going to university and instead go to work for companies that get them on the career ladder earlier and provide ‘on the job’ learning. One of the things we need to do is work more closely with employers, so people get more experience of the world of work and get opportunities to do placements. We’ve got to make this a more valuable experience. I think we should also look into accrediting people for the extra-curricular activities they do, so that we can almost give people another certificate for these things that is much more personal to you.
The aim of the manifesto is to provide an opportunity for students and staff to have a debate about how we will develop in the future and to ensure we are doing the right sorts of things. How can we develop academic excellence? How can we improve the physical infrastructure? I’ve spoken of a library extension, but maybe there’s something better than that? Obviously, we can’t do everything, but we need to make sure we spend our money wisely and understand student priorities at a time when students will be asked to make a greater contribution to the cost of tuition.”
For more information on the manifesto, visit: http://www.rhul.ac.uk/restricted/contensis/forstaff/strategy/manifesto/home.aspx
Students are also being invited to attend a student open meeting in the Windsor Auditorium at 5:30pm on Wednesday 23 March.