Perfect partner

David Docherty plans to retain the CIHE's focus on research while focusing on skills needed to retain the UK's competitiveness

March 12, 2009

"Research is in my DNA," said former BBC boss David Docherty, who will take over as chief executive of the Council for Industry and Higher Education.

So when the multimedia executive replaces the council's founding chief executive Richard Brown in June, he has promised to retain the focus on using research to guide the debate over how universities and employers should work together. "I will be looking to commission research and partner with research institutes. It's crucial that it's not just about conversation but also about facts," he said.

His appointment is likely to be welcomed by both sides of the council's membership, as Mr Docherty has experience of the public, private and university sectors.

Mr Docherty, currently chair of internet television company IPVision, was previously appointed to the BBC's management board as the corporation's first director of new media. He later rose to deputy director of television.

He said that innovation had inspired him throughout his career. "I've always been looking at how we get to the next stage ... going into this recession I'm thinking, what's going to help us come out of it and what's the world going to look like when we get to the other side?"

Mr Docherty has also cut his teeth in the higher education sector, having sat as chair of the governors at the University of Luton, becoming instrumental in the rebirth of the institution as the University of Bedfordshire. "The transformation of Luton into Bedfordshire was one of the most exciting things in my business career," he said. "I got insight into the financial challenges of universities ... I saw the stresses and the strains, and also the way you find success. I would never have applied for this job if I hadn't been through the University of Bedfordshire experience."

CIHE chair Richard Greenhalgh described Docherty as his "dream candidate". "His mix of skills and experience is a perfect fit for the CIHE," he said.

Mr Docherty will shadow the outgoing Mr Brown from 1 April. He said he would spend the first weeks of his new job in conversation with CIHE members. "First and most important is to listen to what the members want. There will be a period of consultation."

He said that alongside the CIHE's focus on employability skills, issues in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) and vocational training, the CIHE would place greater emphasis on widening participation.

"I was brought up in a working-class area," Mr Docherty said. "I'm never going to lose that sense that (higher education) is about giving people new skills to take part in the complex workforce we'll have in coming years."

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