Principal plans a US-style A-team

October 19, 2001

Lord Sutherland, Edinburgh University's principal, has unveiled proposals to revamp the way the university is run, including five-year fixed-term appointments for a new set of academic leaders.

The proposals, out for consultation across the university, are to replace Edinburgh's existing five faculties with three American-style colleges. These would be: science and engineering; medicine and veterinary medicine; and arts, social sciences, divinity, law, music and education.

The new heads of college would be key members of the principal's management team, not elected as are the current faculty provosts, but appointed following external and internal advertisements and search-committee trawls.

If staff approve the plans, Edinburgh expects to advertise the posts before Christmas and launch the colleges next autumn.

Lord Sutherland said he believed the five-year time limit would be an attraction, since many academics feared a senior management post would take them away from their research or teaching for too long.

The college heads will be able to combine the job with academic work and will get advice on future job opportunities. A key part of the proposals is much more devolved decision-making, backed by greater administrative support for academics. "It does not mean a great tranche of additional administrators, but administrators doing things in different places and at different levels," Lord Sutherland said.

Academics would spend less of their time trying to get decisions through an "overcomplex system", and more time on teaching and research, he said.

Lord Sutherland said Edinburgh needed to be flexible and fast in an era of competitive tendering. He said academics must make the decisions about what was worth bidding for, but administrative staff would tackle details such as financial projections and estimates of space needed.

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