University College Northampton hopes to reposition itself with a post that bridges academia and the commercial world, while the University of East Anglia seeks 'deal-makers', Pat Leon reports.
Headhunters pride themselves on their network of contacts, professionalism and impartiality, which is why universities and colleges often call on their services when seeking to fill senior posts.
University College Northampton is this week advertising for a pro rector (research and business development). It is a new post, created when rector Anne Tate saw the retirement of Tony Berry, acting deputy rector, as an opportunity to reposition the institution. Recruitment consultants Tribal GWT won the contract.
Claire Draycott of Tribal GWT says: "People call in headhunters for a variety of reasons. They might want an impartial and educated view of candidates. We have no preconceptions. Internal and external candidates are treated the same. They are all measured on their competences rather than any preconceived idea that their line manager might have."
Draycott says there is a growing cross-over between local and national government and education. "We'll approach people who are not actively job seeking but who possess qualities a client is looking for. We'll help run the process from start to finish - publicity, responses, long and shortlists, checking CVs, interviews, picking up references and so on."
UCN is campaigning for a university title and research-degree awarding powers. Its strength is solid links with national and local industry, such as leather manufacturers.
Tate, who took over as rector last year, says the pro rector post is similar to that of a US university's vice-president for advancement in that he or she will bridge academia and business.
The University of East Anglia is seeking similar commercial skills for the post of director of research and business services.
Brian Summers, registrar and secretary, says the university wants a deal-maker. "UEA is very proud of its research record. We're the second fastest-growing university in terms of research contracts in England. We've got strengths in the biosciences, computing, chemistry as well as in less exploited areas such as the creative arts and media."
For the past three years, UEA has been bringing together its technology and knowledge-transfer arm with grant-funded research activity, he says.
"Research is curiosity driven, and we are looking for someone who can spot the opportunities for commercialisation, excite the academic community and protect our intellectual property.
"We're open-minded as to whether candidates come from business, a university or a technology-transfer organisation. The key thing is that they have the knowledge and experience to understand the right deals to make, whether that is about spin-off companies or licensing, and the ability to see any deal through to a conclusion."