22: Episode 22: the Oxford experience, the importance of relationships and pulling together to deliver success (and possibly a vaccine) in the Covid response


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Episode 22 of University Registrars Talking About Stuff finds me in discussion with Gill Aitken, Registrar at the University of Oxford. Gill talks through her career from private sector legal firm to civil service lawyer in the Department of Health, also leading various professional teams, and now her first couple of years at Oxford where she has responsibility for a wide range of professional services departments as well as, inevitably, the University's Covid response.

We explore her experience of making the transition from civil servant to Registrar, an increasingly common step, and the transferability of approaches and experience including successfully managing complexity, influence and relationships. Discussing the Covid response at Oxford we learn about how the University’s 39 colleges added an extra layer of complexity but actually worked together extremely well with all pulling in same direction and making great contributions to the collective effort as well as managing local support for students very capably.

Gill comments too on the successes of the University’s own test and tracing system where it was able to get results quickly and manage local tracing effectively to control clusters and minimise the spread. Oxford has also made a significant Covid research contribution and is (at time of recording) hoping for a positive announcement on vaccine development. We talk about some other issues too including the really positive relationships with the City and County Councils, the supportive response from local communities, the new approach to professional services working patterns we all anticipate will happen post-pandemic and the longer term prognosis for the UK higher education sector.

I hope you enjoy this really interesting half hour of conversation.

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