After Swansea University’s controversial Pro Vice-Chancellor, Hilary Lappin-Scott (HLS) told a colleague eager to get away (C) about her tweets from abroad and what makes a ‘Top Person in Waiting’, here she adds that a woman of a certain age might come out ahead.
HL-S: (Nodding knowledgeably) a TPiW must ofcourse be the right age.
61 is ideal (Hilary Lappin Scott was born on May 23 1955).
I have always said that working in an educational establishment is also key.
It keeps one young and I am a big believer in Groucho Marx’s saying “you’re only as old as the woman you feel!”.
And look how well M&S is doing these days.
C: (Quietly) this is unbelievable.
HL-S: (Overhearing the end) that word ‘unbelievable’ is the very one they used when I went on the Regional Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – have I mentioned that before?
But let’s get back to the challenge of age and succession planning.
C: Yes – let’s take together your belief a TPiW must have a ‘complete absence of self-doubt and awareness’ and ‘an unshakeable confidence even when complete incompetence is pointed out’.
HL-S: (Not picking up on the sarcasm) good idea!
It takes attention away from that absurd petition calling for better degrees!
If only our students knew how highly Swansea figures in important tables.
Let me illustrate what I am saying by assuming a hypothetical example of a hypothetical management school in a hypothetical university.
Let’s call the hypothetical university Duckpond University (in a book by controversial former Dean of Swansea’s management school, Nigel Piercy).
C: (To self) I can’t think where that might be.
HL-S: Suppose that a TPiW was heavily involved in the management of that hypothetical institution and responsible for the oversight of that hypothetical school.
Let’s say the same TPiW then lobbied hard for the introduction of a new management team in that hypothetical school at that hypothetical institution which turned out to be a total mess.
However, the TPiW completely overlooked this situation, and that most of the competent staff of that hypothetical school had resigned.
Now, the quality that marks out a TPiW destined for great things is the ability to walk away from such a disaster, to distance, er, herself from it to such an extent that she is not called to account for the shambles, and to then re-invent herself as a champion for a completely different issue – for example, a champion for equality and gender.
Of course (staring into middle distance) the only part of that scenario with which I can identify is my passion for equality and gender.
C: (Heavy with irony) that is a most interesting and a totally convincing illustration.
It is such a relief that it is all hypothetical and I am sure that a University Council that was awake would never allow such an event to happen in practice or allow the hypothetical TPiW to get away with it.
HL-S: (Again not picking up on the irony) indeed.
Let me move on to languages.
Students arrive at Swansea University from all over the world (because it is ofcourse thanks to me a global university which is almost as important as our honours degree system or how well we are doing in those vital league tables) and we must have the ability to make all students feel at ease – regardless of whether they come from Treorchy or Townhill.
In my own opinion, I score very, very, highly on languages.
I am grateful to that very important organisation Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraig which unfortunately refused to take questions from UKIP, and my global travels have been well-documented.
I’m sure our regional Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, Bethan Jenkins (like me another important woman), would approve.
That appalling vexatious website The Eye has reported in an outrageous way the fact that I can now ask for a Cappuccino in at least six languages, including Welsh (“Diolch, Cappuccino”).
So it’s a big tick for me on languages
C: (Feigning interest) yes, how would you say your Welsh is getting on?
Hl-S: “Bore da” or do I mean “Da iawn”?
Never mind – it’s one or the other.
I thought my Welsh was fab, awesome, and brill at the degree congregation, so that should get me though the interview panel when the time comes.
Anyway between you and me, I think all this Welsh malarkey is just ‘tokenism’.
I’ve only learned one or two words to keep some of the council members off my back.
C: (Raises eyes to sky and quietly) and finally …
Did you know that pharaohs in ancient Egypt are thought to have had to prove their continuing ability to rule by doing a running race?
In the same vein (or if I was sending out one of my hugely important emails it would be ‘vain’!).
I constantly tweet about my walks and how many Fitbit steps I have done but I do this only to re-assure the University Council (who, I understand, follow me avidly on Twitter) that I am in tip-top physical shape and stand ready to take on any new challenges (and I do not mean the challenge of the unemployment queue) when the time comes!
In my opinion, er, that time can’t come soon enough.
And if post-factual truths are to be believed, one top-level vacancy will soon be appearing at Swansea University.
I am ready and my loins are girded … ‘dw i’n hollol anobeithiol’ (thanks to my translator).