Cultural direction

Michael Elliott has recently been appointed Chairman of the University’s Board of Governors. He is currently Director of Culture at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Prior to this, he was Chief Executive of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and Associate Cultural Director of Liverpool Culture Company. Mr Elliott, who lives in the West Midlands, led the partnership of the major cultural institutions in Liverpool, which attracted significant new investment of national funding.

Mr Elliott is also a former Chief Executive of the Heart of England Tourist Board, and from 1989 until 1996 was Chief Executive of West Midlands Arts, the regional arts board. He started his career in higher education working as a research assistant in education management and, after a period as advisor to an MEP, took on the roles of General Manager of the Students’ Union, Assistant to the Principal and then Head of Publicity at Sheffield City Polytechnic before combining his voluntary interests in the arts with a professional career as Assistant Director of Yorkshire Arts.

What do you find most rewarding about your role as a Governor and what are you most looking forward to as Chairman?

Being engaged in making a contribution to higher education and the region. It is a privilege to be able to serve as a nonexecutive director of any business or institution because, beyond the contribution you make directly to its governance, it also provides unique insights into the work and achievements of others and the opportunity to reflect on leadership in organisations.

The period that we’re going into holds a number of strategic challenges and opportunities for the sector and I am excited by the prospect of helping the University of Wolverhampton navigate its way through what will sometimes be difficult terrain in seeking to achieve its ambitions.

How do you think the University of Wolverhampton contributes to the cultural vibrancy of the region?

Through the presence and activities of its students and staff the University has an enormous impact on the cultural landscape of the West Midlands as well as on the regional economy and local communities. Through the training of artists, creatives, cultural managers and teachers the University has a significant impact on the future of the nation’s cultural wellbeing.

Its support of the Arena Theatre, and its partnerships with local museums and galleries are also very important direct contributions to the region’s cultural offering which will be further enhanced with the building of the Performance Hub on the Walsall Campus.

Higher education institutions are always a key resource and partner for the cultural sector to seek to engage and I know that the University will want to continue to build upon its existing cultural partnerships. The creative, cultural and media sectors will continue to grow in importance to the future of the region and the nation as we emerge from the current recession.

How would you like to see the University developing in future years?

I’m interested in supporting the University’s drive for excellence in teaching and research built upon the widest engagement and participation of its regional communities.

As Chairman of Governors, I will be supporting, challenging and encouraging the institution to continue to drive innovation in teaching and learning and to develop a lifelong partnership with its graduates that will assist in their continuing personal and professional development as the needs of society and the economy change ever more rapidly.

You led a successful partnership of the major cultural institutions of Liverpool. Do you believe there is potential to increase partnership working in the Black Country to benefit the region?

The University already has a very successful record of regional partnership working, particularly in its third-stream activities. In challenging times, partnerships become more and more essential to success as we find new ways of working with each other and seek more efficient and effective ways of adding value in whatever business we are engaged.

Delivering continuing professional development and partnerships with employers is important and new models of delivery will be necessary from which the University, employer, entrepreneur and student can benefit when resources are scarcer. New skills, flexible approaches, joint services and new levels of trust will all be necessary to build successful alliances in the next decade.

What do you feel are the major challenges in the higher education sector at present?

One of the key challenges will be to maintain a focus on students, employers and the region as customers for our services and to ensure excellence both in the delivery and impact of our teaching, research and knowledge transfer.

The University is already successful in online learning and this is something we need to keep developing as student expectations in this changing area are very high. We will also need to explore how we can further prepare for a digital future which will increasingly have its impact on us as teachers, researchers, students, innovators and consumers.

The University is working in the global knowledge industry and it will need to continue to look for more opportunities to deliver, achieve and compete internationally.

There will also be unavoidable challenges that arise from constraints on government investment over the next period that will mean universities have to be smarter in meeting needs and delivering quality.

If you were at University today, what would you like to study?

There is so much I’d like to do!

If I was starting out on my higher education and career, I would want to look for a rounded education that gave me the highest level of digital, design and social/leadership skills and enhanced my ability to act as a global citizen, whatever my chosen initial choice of profession.

I would want to learn to innovate and how to be entrepreneurial in business development and marketing to prepare me for a career that would evolve and change with great regularity involving periods of self employment, employment and portfolio working.

In terms of my own passions I’d love to have more personal and assisted time to build on my knowledge of the arts and culture and pursue my interest in the interplay of politics, psychology and sociology in policy making.

What do you feel has been your greatest achievement?

It would have to be playing a small part, the larger part having been taken by my wife June, in the raising of my two children. My daughter Chrissie and son Peter are two very successful young people of whom I am very proud. Both of them have benefitted from higher education and have successfully embarked upon careers in accountancy and design engineering, respectively.

Professionally, I am fortunate to have played a part in a number of significant achievements in the sectors I have worked and I am content to leave it for others to judge how significant my particular contribution to these achievements may or may not have been.

What are your other interests?

My professional life and personal interests fortunately very closely align. I am lucky that I have worked in sectors about which I am passionate. I enjoy theatre, music, art and dance and building my knowledge of current affairs.

Who do you admire and why?

I always admire those who risk their all to make a difference or seek justice.

Do you have any more ambitions for the future?

I hope I still have many challenges ahead of me professionally and that when I do start to feel the need to shift my work/life balance in a healthier direction that I might have more opportunity to write and travel for personal pleasure, not to mention the chance to learn how to relax!