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November 20, 1998

What can Sir William Taylor offer the beleaguered Thames Valley University?

Perhaps a little bit of MBWA. A man who likes initials, Sir William was appointed last week as acting vice-chancellor of TVU following Mike Fitzgerald's resignation after a critical Quality Assurance Agency report.

MBWA is short for "management by wandering about", an approach Sir William, 68, adopted when he was last brought in to see an institution through a choppy patch.

Almost exactly four years ago Sir William was parachuted into Huddersfield University following the departure of Kenneth Durrands. Professor Durrands had ousted staff members from the university council and then found himself ousted from his job as staff lost confidence in him.

At Huddersfield Sir William began by listening. In the first month he met and listened to 1,500 members of the university. He was not prepared to be rushed. "There is only one thing worse than a young man in a hurry and that is an old man in a hurry," he said.

Huddersfield benefitted from this approach, just as Hull had before it. Sir William was vice-chancellor of Hull from 1985 to 1991. He turned round a predicted Pounds 8 million deficit and famously sacked philosophy lecturer Edgar Page, the first compulsory redundancy of a tenured academic.

With his schools background - he was deputy head of a secondary school before becoming a lecturer at Oxford University, professor of education at Bristol University and director of the University of London Insitute of Education - he should understand the value that TVU places on its many links with schools and colleges in the area.

He is a busy man. He is president of the Society for Research into Higher Education and chair of the Northern Ireland Teacher Education Committee. But hopefully he will have time to introduce another of his abbreviations to TVU. He has a great belief in the power of VFM - value for money, of course.

People is edited by Harriet Swain and researched by Lynne Williams.

Send all information to Lynne Williams. The THES Admiral House 66-68 East Smithfield London E1 9XY

Tel 0171 782 3375

Full listings of grants, appointments and honours appear on The THES website

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