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Introducing our new Vice-Chancellor and President

06 September 2012

New Vice Chancellor and PresidentProfessor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor and President

Croeso, welcome to Cardiff University. Tell us about yourself?

I am the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex. I moved to Essex in 2007 from Newcastle University, where I was the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Provost of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. In terms of my academic career, my research expertise is in German literature and culture, with a particular focus on the writers Uwe Johnson and Peter Schneider. Other research interests include the history of environmental ideas in German culture. I taught at a number of universities including Swansea University (1986-94) and Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg in Germany (1982-84). I was also the Dean of Postgraduate studies and Head of the School of Modern Languages at Newcastle University.

How does it feel to be finally here? 

I feel very privileged to be given the opportunity to lead Cardiff University and build on the outstanding achievements of my predecessor, Dr David Grant, and all his colleagues. The University's achievements and ambitions set during his tenure have put the foundations in place to ensure that Cardiff remains one of the world’s top research-intensive Universities. Cardiff University makes a very important contribution to the economic, social and cultural well-being of Wales and its capital city, and I’m very much looking forward to leading such a respected institution.

What are your immediate priorities as Vice-Chancellor? 

I’ve already started work on refreshing the University’s strategy and priorities. We need to focus on research excellence, student experience, internationalisation and engagement with Wales. As colleagues will be aware, we already have a new senior team in place so we can start work immediately. Work on establishing the three new Colleges (groups of Schools), each headed by our new Pro Vice-Chancellors is well advanced, and the newly established University Executive Board will meet weekly. The new structure is needed so we can have clear accountability and so that we can operate in a way that will release the potential of such a large institution. It’s important that things are done at the right level; there needs to be autonomy for Schools and subjects to get on with their work but we have to make sure the University priorities are fulfilled and that academic colleagues have the right support to do their job. Structures are just a means to an end though. We have to focus on research, student experience and establishing Cardiff’s place both internationally and as a main driver of the knowledge economy in Wales.

What’s your ambition for Cardiff University? 

I want Cardiff University to be one of the world’s leading universities with an academic community recognised for its international distinction and impact - a world top 100 university in international league tables. In the coming months I want to set out in more detail what success will look like and how we are going to achieve it.

What do you think are the key challenges the University faces? 

The higher education environment has become very competitive in the UK. Student recruitment is already proving to be very different and we will have to respond. Consortia of universities are being formed in England and Scotland in order to pool their research potential. Our international competitors are scaling up their operations and looking to become global players. We must do the same and better. In the immediate future we need to secure a top 10 place in the REF once again, and we have to ensure our research income remains high. Student experience is absolutely paramount; we have to offer the best possible facilities and students need to know and feel that we genuinely care about the quality of their education and indeed their life at Cardiff.

How will you engage with staff? 

Actually I think we need to be talking in terms of staff experience as well as student experience, and I will be discussing that with colleagues in the coming month. It’s important to me to engage with staff at all levels, in person so far as that’s possible and via other communication channels. Over the next few months, I will be holding a series of events where people can hear from me directly and ask questions on anything they want. I will also be sending regular e-mails to all staff updating them on what’s going on and how I see things developing. So far as senior staff are concerned, I will be holding a residential away event on 18th and 19th October 2012 which will give us the chance to discuss the future of the University more broadly.

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