The Tempinis diaries

June 4, 2008

New Oxford vice-chancellor: The background

Filed under: Uncategorized — toru @ 1:12 pm

Looks like a pretty good fit for Oxford. Certainly, better than John Hood.

*****

New Oxford vice-chancellor: The background

Donald Macleod on what the appointment of Yale provost Andrew Hamilton might promise for Oxford

Tuesday June 3, 2008
EducationGuardian.co.uk

Andrew Hamilton
Prof Andrew Hamilton, the current provost of Yale University. Photograph: Michael Marsland/Yale University
At Yale, Professor Andrew Hamilton’s group of biophysical chemists is working on molecular recognition. When he comes to Oxford to take up the job of vice-chancellor, he will have to discover the peculiar molecular structure of the ancient collegiate university and find ways in which its different elements can bond.After the upheavals caused by the reform attempts of his predecessor John Hood, the dons will be eyeing his arrival with a mixture of scepticism and hope, one imagines.

Whether he turns out to be a reformer or a conservative when it comes to the university and its centuries-old tradition of academic democracy, the main question that concerns everyone is how good he will be at raising money.

While fabulously wealthy compared with most other British universities, Oxford feels a poor relation of the Ivy League in the US. It believes it must raise its income and endowments drastically to compete for the best staff and students and maintain its world-class research.

For success in this field Oxford will certainly forgive Hamilton his Cambridge doctorate (his first degree was from Exeter).

As provost of Yale since 2004, Hamilton has controlled an endowment worth $22.5bn (£11.45bn, compared with Oxford’s £3.4bn), which now accounts for the largest share of the Ivy League university’s income. This is enabling Yale to increase financial aid for students, to expand undergraduate numbers to 6,000 (still small compared with Oxford’s 12,000) and to make courses and some historic collections available online, free to the public.

The job of Yale provost has proved a springboard to academic stardom. Cambridge led Oxford in appointing Alison Richard, a previous provost, to its vice-chancellor’s post. Susan Hockfield, who headed Yale between Richard and Hamilton, went on to become president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

At Cambridge Richard has certainly made an impact on fundraising, diverting the tensions left by previous attempts at reform into a £1bn appeal – something everyone could agree on.

Last week Oxford launched its own £1.25bn appeal in a bid to keep up with the Yales and Harvards of the university world.

While the president of Yale, Richard Levin, is the public face of the university, the provost runs the place. As the university website explains: “All deans report to him and he is an ex-officio member of every faculty and governing board and of all committees or other bodies concerned with educational policy or with faculty appointments or promotions… and chairs the university budget committee.”

Today Levin applauded Hamilton’s proposed appointment as the next vice-chancellor of Oxford and his “remarkable” impact on Yale. Hamilton helped create Yale’s thriving Center for Genomics and Proteomics and the Yale Institute for Nanoscience and Quantum Engineering, he said.

“He is a warm, sympathetic, and supportive friend of faculty throughout the university, with a deep and sincere respect for the academic mission and the people who carry it out. His fellow officers admire him for his unfailing support of their efforts, and we all appreciate his balanced judgment and wise counsel,” added Levin.

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