Oral history of British science
King, Julia (Part 9 of 9). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee's office, Aston University, Birmingham
King, Julia, 1954- (speaker, female)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 9: Comments on Imperial College: Enjoying working with Richard Sykes, similar to working with Rolls-Royce's John Rose; Richard Skykes strategy for increasing Imperial's effectiveness; disagreements between Richard Skykes vision and academics; JK's predecessor; JK feelings about return to academia, need to focus staff's efforts and funding plans to achieve strategic goals, resulting in initiatives like Energy Futures Lab, increase in research income and league table position; [06:39] close of specialist computing department; JK leaving department in good condition; driven character of Imperial. [08:45] Remarks on: sharing frustrations of academic life with Sykes; anecdote about Imperial professors objecting to losing University of London part of their titles when Imperial became independent; tensions around change at Imperial; discussions about Imperial becoming a private university; enjoyable but tough time for JK, anecdote about disagreement with Sykes over funding distribution for engineering; issues dealing with heads of department; stimulating environment at Imperial; [16:05] admin connected with large research groups, grant applications and full economic costing. [18:35] Remarks on change at Imperial: outline of vision for Imperial; Imperial Innovations spin off company; university level research strategy; Institute for Biotechnology; incubator centre for new companies; engagement with industry; value of JK's previous industry experience in implementing Richard Sykes changes. [24:05]Remarks on: colleagues, Leszek Borysiewicz, David Begg, Dot Griffiths, Julia Higgins; Julia Buckingham; Julia Higgin's get together for senior women at Imperial; aggressive environment at senior Imperial levels, senior women in research not management roles. [28:45] Remarks on JK reasons for leaving research: not having an established research group of her own, comparison with Aston Professor Helen Griffiths; JK links to research through defence science advisory council; sometimes missing research, realising fracture mechanics field has not moved on much. [31:25] Remarks on Aston University: JK enjoying developing at a strategic level; reasons for leaving to head Aston University, strong links with industry, engineering, widening participation, areas of world leading research, seeing it as a challenge; wanting to develop her own strategy; need for strong education element at Aston compared to time at Imperial; balance of teaching and research as Aston; new methods of teaching, virtual learning environment, resistance to change; [39:45] balance between research and teaching; excitement of working in university; emphasis on professional subjects; apolitical nature of student guild; student advice services and clubs. [45:20] Story about difficult start and problematic staff member when JK started at Aston. [48:15] Further remarks on Aston: friendly size of small university, parallels with Imperial; [49:45] strategy plans; management structure; meetings; varied background of governing council including Paul Golby, formerly of E.On, and FE college head Christine Braddock; promotion boards; JK membership of Browne committee, board of BIS [Business, Innovation and Skills] department to raise profile of university. [56:00] Comments on working on Browne Review of university funding: change to Conservative-Liberal coalition Government delaying process; frustrations at delays and implementations of only parts of report, rather than whole system with increase in student numbers; differences between recommendations and implementation, variable fee cap and needs for funding; [1:02:00] frustrations at university places being cut rather than expanded, hitting middle quality universities, encouraging lower quality degrees at FE colleges; [1:04:25] Biggest issues, impact on widening participation, pressure on middle earning graduates, Vince Cable reluctance to tax high earning graduates more; impact of financial crisis conditions; limited impact of change in government. [1:09:52] Remarks on challenges in running a university in the future: ensuring growth; problems of rapidly formulated policy; uncertainty over finances; visa changes reducing overseas student numbers; research funding. [1:13:45] Remarks on strategic vision for Aston: industry collaboration; bespoke degrees for industrial firms; international partnerships; increasing sandwich year students; language skills; developing research in such areas as innovation, sustainable business, medical technology; [1:18:50] advantages of interdisciplinary strategy in a small university. [1:20:20] Comments on King review of low Carbon cars: anecdote about being invited by Gordon Brown's adviser at short notice; working weekly in Treasury, high quality of staff; anecdotes about briefing ministers, rare quality of Hilary Benn's responses, working Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling; great opportunity for reducing carbon emissions in cars; successes of project, such as Tata electric vehicle researching UK and Sunderland battery factory. [1:28:24] Remarks on: Committee on Climate Change, prospects for legally binding climate change law, changes in strategic energy needs and environmental concerns of USA, Europe and China in future decades. [1:32:35] Remarks on: career highlights, King Review, Committee on Climate Change, Rolls-Royce, Cambridge, PhD student success; feelings on interview.
Interview with materials scientist Professor Dame Julia King