Image Credit: The University of Bristol
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Phillip Taylor announced as the new Vice-Chancellor

Our university brushed the first lines on the canvas of its future today, appointing Phillip Taylor to be our next Vice-Chancellor once Ian White steps down at the end of this academic year. 

Taylor is presently the Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Bristol. He is also a member of the government’s Net Zero Innovation and is one of the most influential figures in the implementation of the UK’s fastest supercomputer, Isambard AI, which will be launched in mid-2024.

The University of Bath describes Phillip Taylor as an ‘internationally leading researcher and industry expert in energy systems’. He has taken up roles within both industry and academia for ’25 years’, co-founding the multi-disciplinary Durham Energy Institute in his period at the University as well as key roles in the UK’s path towards renewable energy, such as designing the UK’s grid connection for its first commercial offshore wind farm. 

In a statement to the University of Bath, Phillip Taylor announced that it was a ‘real privilege to be appointed as the next Vice-Chancellor’. He also mentioned having the ‘pleasure of meeting a number of staff and students during the appointment process’, and that he was ‘excited by the achievements and potential’ of our university. 

Jimena Alamo, SU President, remarked that she will ‘very much look forward to welcoming him to Bath’, and that Taylor left a positive impression, in particular ‘with his approachable manner and his ability to engage well with students when discussing complex issues’.  Taylor’s prior experience within academia illuminated a legacy of ‘truly caring about students’, and ‘enabling them to have a positive and transformative experience at University’. 

A Step Forward? 

The University of Bath will inevitably make attempts to illuminate Taylor’s personality, manifesto, and priorities to our student community before his taking over the Vice-Chancellor position. The appointment of our Vice-Chancellor is very different to that of our SU President, as we have a minimal idea of what he hopes to achieve in leading our community. The first brushstrokes have been made perhaps, but we can merely speculate over the final image.  Many students may be encouraged by Taylor’s background in technology and sustainability, and his positions developing renewable energy. As the University of Bristol becomes the site of Britain’s most advanced supercomputer, are we likely to see similar ground-breaking innovations gravitate towards Bath? The University of Bath has climbed into the global top 100 for QS World Sustainability Rankings and has carried out exciting projects such as inventing a palm-based oil alternative.  Will Taylor’s presence as our Vice-Chancellor accelerate this movement towards sustainability and sustainable inventions? 

A criticism that may be levelled at this appointment by certain groups at the university may have to do with perceived similarities between Taylor and our current Chancellor Ian White. White also mentioned a similar rhetoric of ‘building on considerable success, maintaining quality and enhancing innovation’ at the moment of his appointment. Whilst these are undeniably good things, they also imply a continuation of a certain attitude and approach to the role, and many minority groups in our community may wonder whether the head of our university should be an individual with experience working with, or being part of, minority groups. Many would say Ian White did make an effort in this regard, forming a Race Equality Taskforce for example, but without more information on Phillip Taylor’s experience and manifesto, many groups are likely to jump to these types of conclusions.

On another note, whilst a handful of students were involved in the process of appointing a Vice-Chancellor, a notable feature within student conversations will be whether this role should be an election much like our own SU Officer elections. After all, it is our tuition fees that allow our university to turn its lights on, and the Vice-Chancellor will be responsible for navigating key issues that will define students’ education and student experience, such as UCU industrial action. Arguably, all students who will be affected by these issues should have a role in appointing the individual primarily responsible for dealing with them.   

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