In all workplaces and professional communities, differences in perspectives are prevalent and can be an asset. But we need to be watchful of disagreements escalating into breakdowns of cohesion and important relationships.

Near Robin Hood’s Bay

Often, in a large and complex organisation such as a university, the needs and demands of different groups of people are conflicting. Or at least they seem to be. The challenge for leaders is to find the best solution for the entire community of staff and students. My starting point is always that it should be possible to not sacrifice the needs of any one group for those…


Many of us remember how, as students, we’d often wonder how we would apply what we were learning in order to pass our exams, in a real job. Active learning can help our students chart a course for the future with more clarity.

View of steps up to an archway, surrounded by plants and flowers.
View of steps up to an archway, surrounded by plants and flowers.
Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire

As a young student going through medical school in the Netherlands, I kept thinking that one day, before graduation, I would understand it all and be a good doctor. That magic moment never came. …


As the COVID crisis continues to play a significant role in our lives, we are still feeling stressed. How can we ensure that, if tensions arise, they don’t jeopardise relationships in our community and threaten collective solutions to shared problems?

Universities play an enormously important role in the world. They are powerful, networked institutions that can truly solve global challenges. …


When the COVID crisis hit, everything we could do online, went online. But before we eagerly pivot everything back towards face-to-face, we need to consider where online and digital delivery may be superior at achieving our core mission as universities — to make the world a better place through education and research.

Image: Shutterstock

I first started understanding the power of online delivery of university education almost a decade ago, in the early days of lecture capture and amid the rise of platforms such as Coursera, FutureLearn and EdX. The possibility of bringing high quality research-led learning literally to the entire world…


I’ve heard it said that it’s science that lets people live to the age of 100, but the arts that make us want to live that long. We’d do well to remember that during the current debate about arts funding in higher education.

Centre Pompidou, Paris

I don’t want to choose between arts and humanities on the one hand, and science and technology on the other. Not as a university leader and not as a person. I believe we need both fields, and we need the interaction between them. …


Trust breeds trust. It is a foundation of any well-functioning, happy and fulfilled community, and is the cornerstone of shared endeavour.

A week ago I went on a long walk in the Yorkshire Dales. As fellow Dales walkers are well aware, as you cross meadows with cattle and sheep, you’re expected to put a simple, old-fashioned latch back on the gates after you’ve passed them. Occasionally, a friendly sign reminds you of your duty. No one is there to monitor or punish if you don’t get it right, yet I have never found a gate unlatched. …


The COVID crisis has been a tragedy with vast human and economic cost. But amidst it, we have to find the strength to learn the lessons, focus on wider society, and build a better future.

Two red signs. One points left and says ‘one way,’ the other points right and says ‘or another.’
Two red signs. One points left and says ‘one way,’ the other points right and says ‘or another.’

When a crisis is acute, it is normal or even necessary to lose sense of the middle or longer term. When it goes on for a long time, however, it becomes vital to regain a sense of perspective on the future. There are three reasons for this: the first is that the world will be different after a protracted crisis and we need to get…


External and internal demand on universities is pushing them ever closer to breaking point. But change is within reach; it just needs collective will, confidence and courage to reach a better state in which we can all thrive.

Newquay, Cornwall

If universities collectively were a person, they would be a pretty anxious and stressed person. They would feel like they were doing everything they had learned to be happy, yet happiness was getting further out of reach. They would be working harder and harder using the same techniques that seemed so effective in the past, but the anxiety levels would not be…


Humans may think of themselves as rational creatures, but when we feel threatened, emotions often take over. How do we ensure that we don’t become polarised and paralysed as a community when tension and conflict arise?

Meanwood Park

I do not love conflict. And my instinctive reaction to people angrily disagreeing with me, is to back off. Unlike some colleagues and friends, my initial reflex is to not reciprocate with visible anger. I am not exactly sure why that is. My past experiences of forcefully trying to ‘win’ and not getting anywhere may have contributed. As my career progressed, I started to…


Until more men understand just how deeply ingrained the fear of violence and harassment is in every woman’s consciousness and behaviours, it will continue to feel almost like a normal part of womanhood. It shouldn’t be that way. We need change, fast.

Kew Gardens, London

Normally in my blogs I share some personal experiences to illustrate my point. I am choosing not to do so this time, as I write about male violence and harassment targeted at women and girls. Today, I want to primarily address the systemic issues.

“Even for women who don’t experience violence or harassment, the fear of it is…

Simone Buitendijk

Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leeds.

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