Liverpool John Moores Vice Chancellor Professor NIGEL WEATHERILL speaks exclusively to Education Reporter Ben Turner on his blueprint for continuing the university’s success.
HE’S been in post for more than a year now – but you may not know it. Professor Nigel Weatherill has been more concerned with massive changes to the sector and bedding into his new role as Liverpool John Moores Vice Chancellor than media soundbites.
But welcoming The Post into his Rodney Street office, Prof Weatherill talks freely about why “every city should have an LJMU”, his exciting plans to open the former Copperas Hill Royal Mail sorting office to students by 2015 and even supersonic maths tests.
Yorkshire-born Mr Weatherill is a former undergraduate, post graduate and PhD student of the University of Southampton where he read mathematics and aeronautics.
He joined the university in September 2011 after a three year spell as pro-vice chancellor at the University of Birmingham.
But before climbing the ranks of higher education management his career had the touch of the James Bond about it.
For he has done everything from piloting hovercrafts while part of Anglian Water Authority’s research team to making the front of the New York Times after being part of a supersonic team at Princeton University that used maths and a computer to calculate and simulate the airflow of a Boeing 747 in cruise at 30,000 feet.
“It was great fun and I worked with some wonderful people in the UK and around the world,” a beaming Mr Weatherill said.
After seeing his research send shockwaves through the world of aerodynamics, Mr Weatherill arrived at LJMU at a time when the sector is experiencing major turbulence.
This is due to the withdrawal of government funding with the cost of study passed to students in the shape of spiralling tuition fees which saw LJMU – like many others – opt to charge the maximum £9,000 a year fees from 2012.
It has seen applications at all three of Liverpool’s universities dip – after a mad dash by students the previous year to beat the rising fees.
Mr Weatherill admits universities can ill afford to ignore the changing landscape with students shopping around and scrutinising what they will get for their money like never before.
“I think universities need to change, continue to adapt, and we’re in an era where students are at the heart of the system. Clearly the level of expectation has increased I don’t have problem with that.”
Asked why he took the job, he said LJMU “ticked all the boxes” in what he believes a university should be – an institution offering scholarships, engaging with the community and business and “pushing boundaries ”.