Challenges & Future - A relatively young university
Yes. If I might just add to that—a relatively small university; it is not small but it is not fifty thousand, forty thousand students, and there is great advantage in that. Youth and size, I think, can be a double-edged sword, and we have to be clever about dulling the side of the sword that is not so good for us. So, on the plus side, relative youth, the fact that when we started we were agile, we were innovative, we were entrepreneurial. All of those things are characteristics of the university that I hope will stay with us for a very, very long time. I have said to my colleagues that it does not matter if we are 20 years old, 50 years old, that pioneering spirit will hopefully continue to stay with us. That sense of youthfulness if it stays with us means that we are constantly looking at the next frontier, thinking of how we can do things differently, pushing the boundaries, pushing the envelope. At this point in time, I think we have still got elements of that. We must not lose it. If anything, we should try and grow that still further. It is an opportunity—with new leadership, with new ideas brought in from elsewhere mixing with the experience of those who’ve been here.
Relative youth means that we’re not so set in our ways. You know, 100-year old institutions have layers and layers and layers of bureaucracy and so forth. We could become like that if we don’t watch it. And every now and again we do need to prune. The relative size of this university— we have 10,000 students, it’s not small but it’s smaller than many institutions with 30, 40 thousand maybe even a 100 thousand in some universities—and that size is also a double-edged sword. On the positive side, it means that we are actually a more close-knit place than many other places. We actually know faculty across the schools better. We actually know our students much better. We have that close contact with students that we’re actually not just that distant figure in a lecture theatre but in many ways a role model for the students as well. And that’s great.
But the flipside of it is that our relative size means that we have limited faculty numbers. It means that if we are trying to develop, say, a critical mass in particular areas of research while delivering the spectrum of courses, it can be a challenge. We can’t have a group of 50 working on a particular area. You need to spread it out, expertise across different areas so that they can teach different areas. So we need to be smart about how we do it. The way that we are coming at it is precisely through the societal challenges—that if we identify a particular societal challenge, such as aging, that we are drawing different disciplinary perspectives to bear on that particular societal challenge. You bring in the psychologists, you bring in the information systems colleagues who are working on technology to enable the homes of elderly people, you are working with economists. So, we really do need to be strategic. We don’t want to try and say we have the best marketing group per se. We want to say that we have particular strengths in an area that cuts across the schools. I have spoken previously about aging as an example drawing from economics, from psychology, from marketing, from information systems to bring to bear perspectives on a particular societal challenge.