As I sat in the focus group aimed at discussing the criteria for choosing the next Vice Chancellor (or electing, as some suggested), I was happy to see the faces of the activists that started the protests back in December. Overall, one of the most recurring points put forward was the idea that students were speaking but not really being heard. Although the outcome of the focus groups will surely be taken into account, I sadly doubt all the grievances expressed will feature in the conditions for the choice of the new VC. Still, it is nice to see that in the era of increasingly privatised and subsequently extremely expensive education, some students still care about their student experience. Or perhaps, as someone rightly pointed out, their student interest. Indeed, one point made was that senior management has filled the gap university is supposed to fill only with education with a range of ‘experiences ‘ that amount to a lot of fun but little progress towards helping individuals grow into well-rounded citizens.
What I hope this opportunity for change brings about is the possibility to set a standard for VC choice and policy in the future that will be looked up to nationally. Concerns about the financiarisation of education in general, and particularly at Bath, were rightly raised. The most manifest effect of such a marketisation and increased importance of international student fees and rankings is the rise of rent. If the VC symbolises a problem, the eviction of Dame Glynis has also unearthed a heap of latent issues. The desire for a more honest, transparent, personable and approachable individual dominated talks.
The final bone of contention, the infamous pay, sparked a heated debate, with suggestions starting from as little as £75,000, and obviously… no petty expenses covered.
There is scope to engrain a change of culture in how we do life at university that is tremendously exciting. The hopefully very near future will tell us whether we succeed, from the bottom up.