Professor Louise Richardson will take over from the beloved Professor Andrew Hamilton as Vice-Chancellor in 2016, provided Congregation ratify the decision.
Her appointment is being celebrated as a success for gender equality in the university, although Richardson herself claimed she “looks forward to the day when a woman being appointed isn’t in itself news.” Keen to help our new Over-Lord/Lady’s wishes come to fruition, VERSA has all you need to know without discussing her chromosomes.
Shockingly, Professor Richardson took up her current spot as Principal of St. Andrews on the proviso she be given a “prime and suitable high-profile location for the Principal’s house.” She argued this was necessary to receive international academics and wealthy donors. Andrew Hamilton currently has rent-free access to a £3.5m house in North Oxford – but this is hardly the place for receiving oligarchs, especially when Oxford has so many finer spots.
Richardson’s demands led to the (highly awkward) requisitioning of the History of Art faculty, which then underwent a £1.18m renovation programme to make it suitable for, er, “receiving.” A further £3m cost went into the new department for Art Historians, at a time when universities were facing funding cuts. Having seen the History of Art faculty building at Oxford, VERSA thinks it is more likely Professor Richardson will head for the picturesque Ruskin School of Art building on the High Street.
“This property retains classic period features”
However, for one used to the calm glens of St. Andrews, the frequent buses and proximity to Ahmeds could be a deterrent. Looking at history, maybe the presence of royalty was a draw – Prince William studied in the Art History building at St. Andrews. In this case, Christ Church seems a likely target, having housed Charles I during the civil war. Would the donors cough up more readily if they could do so on the spot where Harry Potter was filmed?
Some might deem this excessive, but it wasn’t an issue for Richardson at St. Andrews. Ironically, her predecessor had moved out of her residence claiming it was “inappropriately large and grand.” Good thing Oxford does large and grand. Although on her appointment, she referred to Oxford as simply “one of the world’s great universities.” Ouch. If you want the Rad Cam as your pied-à-terre, more flattery please.
On the plus side, her salary (almost half what she’ll be paid at Oxford) wasn’t increased over her tenure at her request. She also donated £120,000 to the 600th anniversary fundraising drive – although she received a quarter of this sum in one year alone as part of a bonus and the same year her benefits packet doubled to £10,000. As they go, VERSA accepts she’s got a better record than most. Let’s hope it continues.
Oxford’s political elite will be pleased to know she isn’t averse to political confrontation. Up to a point. She stresses she had a change of heart about violence before her attempted recruitment by the IRA, saying: “By then I had concluded that killing people was not the right way to advance the cause of reuniting Ireland.” Better late than never, we suppose…
She recently criticised the SNP’s plans for greater control of Scotland’s universities, saying diversity amongst institutions was key to their success. Richardson also controversially said the 40:60 private to state-school balance was the fault of schools for not helping pupils to make their grades.