I want to make university one of the best in the UK, says Vice-Chancellor David Maguire

A lab at the University of Greenwich, Medway campus. Picture: University of Greenwich
A lab at the University of Greenwich, Medway campus. Picture: University of Greenwich

A lab at the University of Greenwich's Medway campus

The University of Greenwich has high aspirations, with world-class achievements pushing it up the rankings. Vice-Chancellor David Maguire outlined his ambitions to Trevor Sturgess.

Vice-Chancellor David Maguire wants the University of Greenwich to be among the top 50 UK universities within five years.

With record student satisfaction levels, a "greenest" accolade, and world-class specialisms, the University of Greenwich is fast shedding any suggestion of a second-best option in the UCAS application round.

As if to demonstrate its determination for parity with peers, it has upped student fees to the near universal ceiling of £9.000 and raised the tariff score (from BBC to BBB) for applicants.

Professor Maguire (pictured right) says if you don't charge higher fees, people think "your courses can't be as good as the ones that are". Additional money is needed to invest in buildings, halls, library, laboratories, students' union, and teaching. He is developing research by taking on 14 new professors and 50 PhD students, and stronger teaching accreditation is aiming for excellence.

Professor David Maguire outside the Pembroke building at Chatham Maritime
Professor David Maguire outside the Pembroke building at Chatham Maritime

He justifies the higher fees in terms of rewards – "a net salary premium over non-graduates of £160,000, better social and cultural outcomes, meeting a partner, and fun. £9,000 sounds a lot but it's less than the £12,000 - £14,000 it costs us to teach science."

Prof Maguire has vowed to make the university one of the best – "to be as good as we can be" – taking it out of the current 80s and into the top 50, but he insists that does not mean weakening its traditional appeal to students from disadvantaged groups – "widening access" in the jargon, or families with no university-going tradition.

"We are trying to improve the overall quality of what we do and the standing of the university in the eyes of regional, national and international people. We’ve got a lot of fundamental core assets which enable us to say with some confidence we will get there."

He admits the university hasn't always excelled in academic performance, perhaps because of the wider participation – or "people's university" credo – but he aims to combine improved results with continuing access to local people.

Internationally, the university has an enviable reputation, attracting many overseas students, although tougher immigration rules have depleted numbers a tad.

As for business, the university already works with a number of firms, for example, NIC Instruments, Folkestone, which has made a bomb disposal robot, but Prof Maguire would like to serve more, offering university experts to help with specific challenges.

"We want to help them develop innovation, improve their performance and make them more efficient and effective."

The university, which tailors courses to the needs of the regional economy, is already working closely with hi-tech start-ups in the Innovation Centre Medway.

"It's also about enabling our students to understand the way the world of business really works, to develop real-world projects and scenarios for dissertations."

University of Greenwich logo
University of Greenwich logo

Established in one of the county's prime industrial centres, and using the impressive former Naval Dockyard buildings, including Pembroke, the university offers specialisms in bulk solids handling at the Wolfson Centre and engineering.

It has an advanced school of pharmacy and the world-renowned Natural Resources Institute, which works in Africa and Asia.

Its research on tsetse fly was named by Universities UK as one of the eight most important discoveries made in a UK university over the past 60 years.

The Centre for Sport & Exercise Science has the latest in 3D movement and force analysis equipment, enabling researchers to help professional athletes improve technique and avoid injury.

Prof Maguire says that the university is clearly world-class in a number of areas.

"We know exactly what world-class looks like," he says.

"we've got to really tool up to provide expertise, to invest in business start-ups, in enterprise and entrepreneurship..." – prof david maguire

With graduate employment a key issue, the university has a target of getting 90% into a job or further study. "Every person who comes to this university should expect to leave with a graduate level job and good honours degree, a first or 2:1.

"We've got to have a workforce which is trained to an even higher level than we are right now if we're to compete with Japan, Korea, Germany the US and the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] countries."

He says the unique multi-university approach, Universities at Medway, is a role model to others. Without it, Medway would not have a university.

"Without question, it's been a huge success and continues to serve the region well. We're blazing the trail for a lot of institutions in shared services."

Medway may not yet be the finest university city in the UK but Prof Maguire is "proud of being here and thankful for the wonderful support we get from the community".

"The job's not done. We need to continue investing. We want to grow and we're working with Medway council and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership. It's about high-value, high-skills and we’ve got to invest for the next generation.

"We've got to really tool up to provide expertise, to invest in business start-ups, in enterprise and entrepreneurship.

"Nine out of 10 businesses are micro-enterprises and that's where the jobs, growth and clever ideas will come from."

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