UWE lands high flyers

January 20, 2006

It may be some distance from the hallowed golden triangle, but the University of the West of England is hoping that hiring three funding agency big hitters might push the institution into the big league.

The post-92 university, which houses the Higher Education Funding Council for England, made waves last September with the surprise announcement that Sir Howard Newby, chief executive of the Higher Education Council for England, would be taking over as vice-chancellor.

This week, the university confirmed it had recruited John Rushforth, Hefce director of widening participation, as a deputy vice-chancellor. Mr Rushforth, who is also deputy director of the Office for Fair Access, has held a variety of posts within Hefce and is seen as a strong all-rounder.

Sheila Newby, Sir Howard's wife and former head of learning and teaching policy at Hefce, already held the post of assistant vice-chancellor at UWE.

These three appointments put UWE in a potentially unique position in terms of market knowledge and may, as a result, ruffle feathers at rival institutions.

Keith Hicks, director of marketing for the university, said: "Howard certainly brings unparalleled experience of the higher education sector, not only in the UK but also internationally. It is equally pleasing that others with similar expertise have chosen to follow him."

He added: "The governors were looking for people who could make us globally recognised."

Michael Shattock, professor of higher education management at the Institute of Education, said: "UWE is going to have a very powerful network inside Hefce, the Government and research councils, with connections into significant sources of information."

But he added: "Valuable as these connections are, the new game is going to be more about knowing what one's market is. Connections won't be enough."

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