Trendsetter

Lee Sanders will use his experience at Durham to bring Birmingham's ambitions for the future from concepts to reality

July 24, 2008

Lee Sanders is swapping the quiet environs of Durham for Birmingham's busy streets in the autumn. The registrar and secretary of the northeast university takes up the same post at the University of Birmingham on 6 October.

He will take over the role before the university's new vice-chancellor, David Eastwood, arrives next spring. He will be in charge of 3,500 administrative and support staff, joining in the wake of a major restructuring that saw 19 schools reorganised into five academic colleges.

At Durham University, he also arrived following major structural changes. He designed a new university strategy and programme of investment in its academic strengths.

The opportunity to join a university undergoing major change attracted him to Birmingham, as did its academic strengths, estate and the key role it plays in its region. He described the job as "an unmissable opportunity". Like Durham, Birmingham may soon change its focus to subjects in which it is strongest. He said: "To compete with the very best in the States you have to be realistic about where your strengths are. In a place like Durham, you have to be canny about investing to back those things. The structure helps with the decision-making for that process."

Chris Higgins, Durham's vice-chancellor, said Mr Sanders had been especially supportive when he came into the role.

Although the responsibilities of a registrar are on the administrative side of the university, Mr Sanders said it was important for senior managers to have empathy with academic life. He attended the University of Manchester as a postgraduate student in history, and said that his research and teaching experience there were a "touchstone" in his current work.

He has managed research assessment exercise submissions at Durham and at his previous institution, the University of Warwick, where he worked for 13 years until 2003 as academic registrar, director of the research and development office and secretary to Warwick Graduate School. He said the RAE process has helped to keep him in tune with academic priorities. He was also secretary to three panels in the 2001 RAE, a role he found fulfilling and recommends to other university managers.

Mr Sanders sits on the Association of Heads of University Administration's executive committee, the Universities UK task force on strategic procurement and the registrars' council of the 1994 Group. He has also been on teams delivering the British Council-sponsored programme on higher education management in Ethiopia and Argentina.

Married with a young son, his interests include history, cricket and football, music, the arts and cooking.

chloe.stothart@tsleducation.com.

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