Creating new connections

Connections hold the key for the University of Wolverhampton, as it embarks on a new era aiming to be at the hub of partnerships, business and community links designed to provide a first class experience for its students.

Led by new Vice-Chancellor Professor Geoff Layer, the University strives to be an integral player in the regeneration of the region and beyond and to create and contribute to employment opportunities.

Geoff is keen to give students the attributes valued in the world of work and ensure that employers will value University of Wolverhampton graduates as employees and entrepreneurs for the many challenges ahead. The key to the regeneration of the economy is to improve individual life chances and that is what the University of Wolverhampton does so well, but as ever we need to offer that little bit more to make even more difference.

The University has always been focused on the student experience but Geoff wants to build on this even further and create a shift towards recognising the role of students as key players in shaping the nature of their educational experience.

“People have talked about students becoming consumers because they are paying fees. I don’t believe this is the case; they are our partners in a learning experience and we will be working together. The educational process is something they learn from and stays with them forever. We also learn from them and listen to what they have to say,” he says.

The connected university

“Many of our students come to us from the West Midlands and surrounding areas and in these economically challenging times we will be seeking to provide as many opportunities as possible for higher education.”

His aim is to ensure that they are given every chance for a successful future based on the skills and attributes they acquire at Wolverhampton.

“We want to give students the chance to engage with businesses and different types of organisations and be in a position where all our students will have assessed work experience while at the University,” he says. In addition, he encourages an entrepreneurial spirit and is proud that the University is able to support students in developing their own wealth creation ideas.

Despite the economic downturn, there are still opportunities ahead for the region and the University is keen to capitalise on these. The announcement that Jaguar Land Rover will build a new plant in Wolverhampton has been welcomed by the University, which will develop more business links in the future and have graduates fit for purpose.

Geoff says: “We will make sure that we continue to grow. We will be more business facing and have more links with companies, as well as schools, colleges and the wider public sector.

“It is important for us to be a connected university. We are inextricably linked to where we are and we need to be connected to those around us, as well as increasing our global links.”

Shaping the future

Geoff is passionate about providing educational opportunities and is keen for staff and students to have their say about the University’s future, with strategic consultations taking place and ideas being welcomed.

He joined the University in August and was formerly Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) of the University of Bradford. His background saw him graduate from Newcastle Polytechnic with an LLB (Hons) and enter a teaching and research career.

He joined the Sheffield Business School in 1983 as a Lecturer in Law and became Professor of Lifelong Learning in 1996. Geoff joined the University of Bradford in 1999 as Director of the Centre for Continuing Education, becoming the founding Dean of the School of Lifelong Education and Development in 2001. He held the post of Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching) from 2004 until becoming Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) in 2008. In this role, he was responsible for the academic development of the University of Bradford across its teaching, research, knowledge transfer and high level skills activity.

Between 2000 and 2006 he was the Director of Action on Access, an agency established to advise HEFCE on its Widening Participation strategy. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was awarded the OBE for services to Higher Education in 2003.

Yet despite these many achievements, he believes his appointment as Vice-Chancellor at Wolverhampton is a great honour and the pinnacle of his professional career. “I will work hard to ensure that the University continues to grow and deliver the exceptional results demonstrated by our graduates,” he says.

“We will create a prosperous future for ourselves and our students. We are a proactive university and I want us to also be a confident university. Our graduates are the leaders of the  future and the values we instil in them will help shape that future.”