Rector plans to unburden dons

March 30, 2001

Imperial College, London, must decide whether to expunge 150 years of history when it restructures into four faculties next year.

The new structure aims to promote interdisciplinary teaching and research targeted on preserving and enhancing the quality of human life, for example, through tissue transplantation and non-invasive diagnoses.

In a letter to staff, seen by The THES , rector Sir Richard Sykes said:

"Imperial College is a very large organisation and we could not hope to maintain the right balance between the evolving needs of the individual departments and those of the college as a whole without a new organisational structure."

The four faculties - medicine, life sciences, physical sciences and engineering - will supersede the departmental structure based on the constituent colleges - the Royal College of Science, the Royal School of Mines and the City and Guilds Institute - from which Imperial was formed. The management school and the small humanities programme will continue outside the faculty system.

The new structure would allow management of change and strategy development, Sir Richard told staff. It would also ensure that accountability and responsibility are more clearly defined.

Sir Richard also outlined his plans for staff. Imperial is over-administered and under-managed, he said. Staff should be recruited on the basis of research excellence and teaching competence, but management training should be provided for those who are going to develop into leaders.

Starting salaries must be improved for postdoctoral staff and new lecturers, and academics must be unburdened from routine administration.

Concerns remain that faculty heads - who will be accommodated in new college headquarters following a £6 million refurbishment - could lose touch with academic staff.

Hamish Common, president of Imperial's student union, criticised the college for not consulting students about the plans. He added that there would be adverse consequences if the constituent colleges were abolished.

Imperial is working with consultants Oxford Philanthropic to identify how it might raise significant income from private contributions. Sir Richard aims to raise a nest egg of £1 billion from alumni donations and by capitalising on intellectual property over the next ten years.

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