“The biggest glass ceiling I experience is not gender, but that I am not from an academic background,” said Tricia King, pro-vice-master for strategic engagement and director of external relations at Birkbeck, University of London.
“I hate the phrase ‘non-academic’ with such passion. I want to be defined by what I am. And what I am is somebody from a professional background who brings skills to the table that universities need.”
Last month, Ms King was appointed vice-president of international operations at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (Case), a role that will involve helping universities in the UK, Singapore and Mexico strengthen advancement services (a term that covers fundraising, marketing and alumni relations). But it is her role at Birkbeck, which she leaves at the end of October before starting at Case, that she considers to be her career breakthrough.
“What Birkbeck was brilliant at realising was that someone with my skill set on a leadership team would support the academic community and drive strategy and not be seen as a second tier of management. And I’m hugely grateful,” she said.
Ms King began her career in a marketing role at a theatre in Leeds, but has worked at universities for the past 20 years, in marketing, recruitment, alumni relations and fundraising roles.
She cited some scholars’ snobbery about university administrators as the reason why an interview with her on the subject has been seven years in the waiting; Ms King declined to speak to Times Higher Education when she first joined the leadership team at Birkbeck for fear that it would “create tension” within the organisation.
“At that point there was an outcry of ‘why have we made someone who is director of external relations and comes from a marketing background a pro-vice-master?’
“But seven years down the road, with all our lobbying around government policy change and the successful launch of a whole new undergraduate proposition, people realise that I offer a different skill set that is really valuable,” she said.
Ms King will be the third Briton to begin a top-level job at Case this year, following Sue Cunningham’s appointment as president in March and John Middleton’s appointment as executive director for Case Europe in May. Is the UK getting better at advancement?
“Definitely,” she said. “British fundraisers are wildly talented now.”
She in part credits the UK’s improvement in this area to Case volunteers from North America who helped develop philanthropy at UK institutions when the organisation’s Europe branch launched 21 years ago (Ms King has also been a long-time volunteer at Case). But she said that the “talent pool is still very small”.
One of her main goals when she begins her new role in November will be to help promote advancement as a career path across each of her three geographical regions, and show that it is not just about fundraising. However, there is no doubt that philanthropy in particular is high on the agenda of universities in the UK.
A report written for the Higher Education Funding Council for England last year warned that UK universities could miss their target, set in a 2012 report led by former Loughborough University vice-chancellor Dame Shirley Pearce, of raising £2 billion a year if they do not at least double the number of staff in fundraising by 2022. Does Ms King think that the goal can still be achieved?
“When you look at what’s happened in America, of course it’s possible. But it won’t happen without proper investment, training and support,” she said.
“But can it happen? Of course. I’m Pollyanna. Always have been.”
Tim Middleton has been appointed pro vice-chancellor for research and enterprise at Bucks New University. Professor Middleton, who takes up his role on 1 September, is currently vice-provost for research and enterprise at Bath Spa University.
Ruth Kelly, the former education secretary, will join St Mary’s University, Twickenham in September as pro vice-chancellor for research and enterprise. Ms Kelly is currently global head of client strategy at HSBC Global Asset Management.
The University of Wales Trinity Saint David has appointed Dylan E. Jones as dean of education and communities. He will also lead the establishment of a new Wales Institute of Education and School Leadership. Dr Jones is currently the headteacher of Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg.
Amanda Broderick, pro vice-chancellor (international priorities) and dean of the College of Business and Law at the University of Salford, is to head Newcastle University’s new London campus. Professor Broderick will take up her role as chief executive officer and director in September.
Abertay University has appointed David Reeves to the new role of director of finance and research funding. Mr Reeves, who took up his role this month, joined from bakery group AB Mauri, a subsidiary of Associated British Foods.