Overseas presence at top of Riordan's agenda for Cardiff

New v-c of Wales’ research powerhouse is keen to sharpen focus on China, writes David Matthews

January 3, 2013

As vice-chancellor of the University of Essex, Colin Riordan was prolific: he spoke out against the government’s inclusion of students in its net migration target, he was chair of the International Unit at Universities UK, and he served on the board of the Equality Challenge Unit.

He has even more on his plate at Cardiff University, where he took over as vice-chancellor in September, and which has more than twice as many students as Essex. What’s more, he now has to answer to the outspoken Welsh education minister, Leighton Andrews, as well as to Westminster on visa policy.

As Cardiff dominates Wales’ research output, it is “really critical to the future of Wales”, Professor Riordan said. This makes his new role “a very responsible position to take but a very exciting one as well”.

One of his priorities is to increase Cardiff’s presence abroad. It already has partnerships with Chinese universities in areas including low-carbon building and cancer research. However, Professor Riordan said he wanted to take its involvement further and begin teaching students in China, but only if Cardiff had “full control over the quality and delivery”.

“What they [Chinese partners] have is space and equipment, and what we have is expertise,” he said.

Although discussions are in the early stages, the university would start by offering postgraduate medical degrees at Capital Medical University in Beijing.

This model, where Cardiff staff would teach its own degrees abroad on a partner’s premises, would not be subject to what Professor Riordan calls the “visa risk” - the danger that in the government’s attempt to reduce net migration to under 100,000 by 2015, the number of overseas university students will be cut.

“All universities have to take that into account because no one quite knows what will happen in respect of visas,” he said.

Professor Riordan has arrived at a tumultuous time for Welsh higher education, and has already started learning Welsh. He stressed that he has been “reassured” that the Welsh government, which is currently pushing through the merger of five universities into two, will treat Cardiff “as an autonomous institution”.

But one challenge facing Cardiff and its medical school is that Welsh universities will receive less teaching money than English institutions for high-cost subjects such as medicine, dentistry, physics and engineering.

But as about 65 per cent of students at Cardiff are English-domiciled, and 15 per cent are from outside the UK, the university is not nearly as dependent on funding from the Welsh government as other institutions in the country, he said.

Professor Riordan is not the only recent change in a senior role at the university. A month after he joined, the business school appointed a new dean, Martin Kitchener, who was previously associate dean of engagement.

The business school, which has been heavily research-led, will now pursue an agenda of “balanced excellence” with more emphasis on teaching, he said.

There will also be a push to reconnect with alumni. On a recent visit to India, Professor Kitchener found that some graduates felt they had been a “bit let down” by the lack of contact with their alma mater.


You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate