Alan Gilbert, RIP

Professor Alan Gilbert, who was my boss for the last four of his eight years as Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University, died yesterday in Manchester. He had recently completed a term as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester.

I first met him in the late 1990s, during my time as then Education Minister David Kemp’s higher education adviser. He was very noticeable among the VCs who came through or approached our office. Most of them just wanted another cash hit to feed the sector’s great addiction to public money. Alan knew that game was up and that universities would have to do more to earn their own income.

He was an early and regular advocate of deregulating tuition charges for domestic students, but also knew that this was going to be politically difficult. So he turned to other ways of making money for the U of M – with the main strategies being international students, Melbourne University Private, and Universitas21’s commercial arm U21 Global.

The first of these was very successful; Melbourne had been a laggard in recruiting international students but this rapidly changed during the Gilbert era. But as Alan’s many critics repeatedly pointed out, the other two ventures were money losers. The problems of Melbourne University Private in particular generated much work for me in my first few years at the U of M. Continue reading “Alan Gilbert, RIP”