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. Kingstonâ€™s reputation for high-quality teaching and its plans for enhancing its facilities had proved an irresistible attraction when the chance to join the Universityâ€™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 Wolverhamptonâ€™s first female Vice-Chancellor.
â€œThe 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,â€ Professor Stuart said. â€œPlans 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.â€
South African-born Professor Stuart has been a Pro Vice-Chancellor at Sussex since 2000. Helping to develop the countryâ€™s first lifelong learning network and overseeing major improvements in Sussex studentsâ€™ 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. â€œKingston has the potential to be at the forefront of what I think of as a new global education agenda,â€ she said. â€œThat 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.â€
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. â€œThey 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 studentsâ€™ experiences,â€ Professor Stuart said. â€œKingston 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.â€
Despite the busy times ahead at Kingston, Professor Stuart says that meeting people across the university will always be her most important role. â€œAt heart Iâ€™m a people person and I like finding out what makes people tick, so I wonâ€™t be tucked away in an office more than I have to be,â€ 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.
Kingstonâ€™s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Scott said he was looking forward to Professor Stuart joining the University early in the New Year. â€œProfessor Stuart is a real catch for Kingston,â€ he said. â€œShe will bring enormous expertise in continuing education and her beliefs and values about how higher education should develop are widely shared across the University,â€ he said.