The eternal lunch....it's a hard life

June 16, 2006

Name : David Latchman

Age : 50

Job : Master of Birkbeck, University of London, and professor of genetics at Birkbeck and University College London

Salary : As published in The Times Higher !

Background : After doing my first degree and PhD at Cambridge University, I spent a period as a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London, then moved to a lectureship at UCL. Over the next 18 years, I occupied various positions at UCL, which culminated in my becoming dean of the Institute of Child Health. I moved to Birkbeck at the beginning of 2003.

Working hours and conditions : My role appears to involve a great deal of "eating for Birkbeck" at lunches, receptions and dinners.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage : I am responsible for leading the college, which has about 1,000 staff and 19,000 mostly part-time students.

Biggest challenge this year : Trying to ensure that part-time students and the universities that teach them get a fair deal from the Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

How you solved it : This is an ongoing issue, although I think the value of part-time study and the need to support it is being increasingly recognised in our lifelong-learning culture.

Worst moment : The annual meetings with staff who have been turned down in our very stringent promotion procedures and trying to encourage them to move forward in a positive way to produce a successful application in the future.

What is your office like? It is not as large as those of many other heads of institutions. However, I have a splendid view of Birkbeck's new landscaped entrance.

What university facilities do you use? Occasionally, when I do not have a lunch meeting, I will buy one of the excellent sandwiches available in the refectory.

Do you socialise with people at the university? I have lunch with different colleagues almost every day, but usually as part of a meeting to transact business.

Who are the most difficult people you deal? All Birkbeck staff are extremely easy to deal with.

Best excuse for bad behaviour : When I was trying to gather together the chapters for a book I was editing, I was told by one colleague that his chapter was late because his collaborator had gone to Miami with the draft of the chapter and was now trapped in a hurricane.

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