A late riser

Maureen Skinner started out making tea but now runs an 80-strong team and leads the professional body for HE managers

June 5, 2008

As a young administrator, Maureen Skinner's first job involved such duties as making cups of tea, filing papers and passing student queries to career advisers.

Almost three decades later she runs a team of 80 as registrar of the faculty of arts at Thames Valley University, and she has been appointed as the new chair of the Association of University Administrators (AUA).

"I started at the bottom and worked my way up, but I've always loved the job," she said.

Her first job in the sector was as a part-time administrative assistant at what was then Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education, where she went on to hold a number of posts. She worked her way up to marketing manager, but then decided that she wanted a more academic-related role. She became a faculty registrar and then deputy academic registrar with a remit for research.

She left the institution in 1998 to join the Royal College of Nursing Institute. A year after that, she moved to take up the job of research manager at the London Institute, where she remained for three years. In 2002, she joined Thames Valley in her current position, where she has stayed for the past six years.

Of her role with the AUA, she said: "I've been actively involved with the association since 1993, and I've always felt very strongly about career progression and development for university administrators.

"I now have 80 people reporting to me, indirectly, and I started out as a part-time, term-time only, lowest grade administrator in a student advisory service."

Ms Skinner's role in higher education could have turned out very differently. She read economics at Loughborough University and had planned to go on to do a PhD and then, perhaps, to pursue a career as an academic. That changed, however, when she married and had children.

She worked for a while as an administrator in the Civil Service and took time out to look after her children. She then gained a masters degree in education at the Institute of Education in London.

In her early years, she was acutely aware of the "academic-administrator divide", she said. "I'm less conscious of it now, but that may be because I'm in a more senior position. When I first started, I was probably at least as well qualified as a number of my academic colleagues, but it didn't always feel like that."

She added: "When I first went into the sector, careers for higher education administrators were not nearly so well defined as they are now, and there weren't nearly as many opportunities. Things have improved a great deal."

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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