Dr Peter Bonfield, the new Vice Chancellor of the University of Westminster, is pledging that the London university will be the very best.
In his first interview since taking the reins eight days ago he told students: “We have to make sure we are clear where we are the best or where we are going to be the very best.
“On diversity we are outstanding… tremendous areas of research and then we’ve got this wonderful track record of teaching and educating an array of diverse students who are very relevant to the employer market place. That connection and that way of doing things is very important.”
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According to the University of Westminster website, he has “chaired four independent reviews for the Government, on Forests and Woodlands, Public Sector Food Procurement, Property Flood Resilience, and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. He is currently a member of the Grenfell Advisory Panel, and a Non-Executive Director for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.”
When asked about comments that the VC of Middlesex University made regarding the value of the local study experience higher, Dr Bonfield said: “Students come here to Westminster because of who we are and what we stand for, so that’s very international, and that will continue to grow.
“And when students come from around the world or from London or other parts of the UK, they of course have the local experience as well, and the trick now is to blend the two.
“Local learning is also becoming on your phones and if you are travelling on the Tube or if you are one of our students at home, having access to and connection with who we are and what we stand for in the learning through digital means, it gives you a feeling of local even though you might not be there. So, the trick is to be international and to provide a feeling and a connection which works for people locally as well.”
Indeed, diversity and an international appeal has been the forte of the University of Westminster, but it is also now leading its way to incorporate a more cherished local feel to its institutional values.
But even though London being named as the best city for students across the globe, the fact that it is also an expensive city to live in casts a big shadow on students’ will to come and study here.
Dr Bonfield told WNOL about the motivation and support that the University can and hopes to provide to its students.
“We have to think very carefully about how we provide the right sort of quality of service and also how we provide accommodation that helps with the affordability side,” he said.
“But that’s the balance if you want to study in a fabulous city and in a fabulous institution that’s ranked number one the world [London], it often comes with some price.”
When asked how getting higher education is nowadays costing students their mental health balance, Dr Bonfield told WNOL:
“My top priorities are wellbeing, health and safety of all our students, all my colleagues and everybody that’s been associated with us. That’s always been my priority as well in my last organisation and others, so this is, without question the top priority and we’re going to work hard and make sure that we support mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing.”
But how is the University going to fulfil its promises when it is also undergoing a 10% staff cut? In response, Dr Bonfield said: “We’re just getting at the end of what’s called a transformation programme, and it’s doing a couple of things. One is it’s really looking at what our students need going forward, in term of different types of courses and how they’re delivered, and how we make an offering that integrates areas that give the best experience that’s the most relevant to employers — and that’s a structuring things.”
“The other thing we’ve been looking at is our cost base, which is how much we pay to employ our colleagues. We’ve taken it down a little to align with the number of students we are getting in, just to make sure … there is a small amount of profit that we can invest to grow with.
“And so the main part of what we’re doing is about reorganising to make sure we are giving the students the very best experience that they can have, that gives them great careers, and aligned with that it’s just making sure that our costs are in line with our revenues so we can be fit for purpose going forward.”