If I ruled the world...

Does power corrupt? THE’s Twitter followers put the proposition to the test

June 25, 2015
Illustration of a powerful person in the middle of a crowd
Source: iStock

What would you do if you were vice-chancellor for the day?

That was the question posed by our feature a couple of weeks ago. It gave us the perfect excuse to put the same poser to our 158,000 Twitter followers (@timeshighered). Hundreds of you responded using the “#VCForTheDay” hashtag.

Postgraduate students and early career researchers were top of many people’s agendas. Kate Muir (@MissyMuir), a psychology researcher at the University of the West of England, said she would ensure that all postgrads “are entitled to maternity/paternity leave and pay in some form, instead of falling through cracks in the system”. Meanwhile, Joanne Neary (@joanne_neary), a “qualitative researcher and methods nerd”, would make sure that “all postgraduate students were entitled to sick leave and all supervisors had up to date training” in mental health.

Christopher Saville (@cwnsaville), research project support officer at Bangor University, kept things simple. He tweeted that he would erect a “giant statue of myself on campus”. Ayden Férdeline (@ferdeline), a graduate student at the London School of Economics, would “fire any academic who has been resident at one university for 10 years + and never taught at another”.

Ghislaine Dell (@GhislaineDell), careers adviser at the University of Bath, would “make academics and professional services staff swap jobs for a week”. Adrian Coyle (@Aidan64), professor of social psychology at Kingston University, would “commit to teaching part of a module each year...to know how things are at the coal face”. Simon Fraser (@TheSimonFraser), a teaching fellow at Ulster University, tweeted that he would ensure that “staff get to vote from a shortlist on who should be [pro vice-chancellor] or VC. Subsidised coffee would be nice too.”

The question posed a dilemma for “missus moody” (@jesska_g), who is “working and studying in higher education”. How would she wield the power? For her, it was a “toss up between on-site creche facilities or subsidised doughnut mornings”.

Russell Smith (@AstroRJS), an astronomer at Durham University, would get trigger-happy and “sack staff who chatter over visiting speakers’ talks”. He later reflected: “On balance, I think I probably shouldn’t be #VCForTheDay.” Jenny McDonald (@aggiewil), an educational technology teacher and researcher – and fan of bird metaphors – would stop universities from “breeding publishing super-chickens” and instead nurture “a culture of empathy, equity and transparency for the benefit of the flock”.

Many were idealistic. Eleonora Belfiore (@elebelfiore), associate professor of cultural policy at the University of Warwick, would “publish the salaries of all staff, so we could all start a real conversation about gender equality in HE”. Dominic Dixon (@podusmonens), resource discovery and access assistant at Northumbria University, would “take a huge salary cut, abolish tuition fees, remove all corporatisation and implement a model based on anarchist philosophy”. Jo Heaton-Marriott (@microjology), public engagement manager at the University of Central Lancashire, would “open my office door, put the coffee on, open a packet of biscuits and meet my colleagues face to face”.

Some were less community spirited. Colin Cooper (@ColinCooperc1), a research administrator, had one simple plan: “Retire on a final salary pension. Simples.”

Chris Parr


Send links to topical, insightful and quirky online comment by and about academics to chris.parr@tesglobal.com

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