Kingston University has a vibrant future in store and is well placed to meet the challenges of higher education in the 21st Century, according to incoming Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Mary Stuart. Professor Stuart ends a 14-year association with Sussex University next January to take up her new position. Kingston’s reputation for high-quality teaching and its plans for enhancing its facilities had proved an irresistible attraction when the chance to join the University’s management team came up, she said.
Professor Stuart has been selected to succeed Professor Caroline Gipps, who left Kingston in October to become the University of Wolverhampton’s first female Vice-Chancellor.
“The next few years will be an interesting and challenging time for higher education as a whole, and Kingston has some big projects in the pipeline,” Professor Stuart said. “Plans to upgrade its campuses and buy the prestigious County Hall complex for educational use will see Kingston entering a really exciting phase, positioning itself more strongly at the heart of the community. I have been a strong supporter of civic responsibility all my life, so you could say that in Kingston I found the perfect match.”
South African-born Professor Stuart has been a Pro Vice-Chancellor at Sussex since 2000. Helping to develop the country’s first lifelong learning network and overseeing major improvements in Sussex students’ experience of university life are among her proudest achievements. Professor Stuart is also a keen advocate of raising awareness of the benefits of higher education among people from all social backgrounds, particularly those with little or no family background of going to university. “Kingston has the potential to be at the forefront of what I think of as a new global education agenda,” she said. “That is, we will aim to welcome a much more diverse body of students into higher education, while maintaining our commitment to the highest quality teaching.”
Professor Stuart believes one of the biggest challenges facing universities will be meeting the needs of students who, from next year, will be paying top-up fees for the first time. “They are going to have far higher expectations as we head into a new climate of tuition fees and all universities need to think hard about how to further improve students’ experiences,” Professor Stuart said. “Kingston has a fine reputation for innovative approaches such as e-learning, but working even more closely with our students and really paying attention to what they are telling us will have to be a top priority.”
Despite the busy times ahead at Kingston, Professor Stuart says that meeting people across the university will always be her most important role. “At heart I’m a people person and I like finding out what makes people tick, so I won’t be tucked away in an office more than I have to be,” she said. When she does have a spare moment between other duties, Professor Stuart hopes to be able to complete her latest book, Working Class Heroes? The Life Experiences of First-Time Entrants to Higher Education, due for publication in 2007.
Kingston’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Scott said he was looking forward to Professor Stuart joining the University early in the New Year. “Professor Stuart is a real catch for Kingston,” he said. “She will bring enormous expertise in continuing education and her beliefs and values about how higher education should develop are widely shared across the University,” he said.