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Vice-Chancellor and CEO Professor Craig Mahoney’s Inaugural Lecture: Chaos Theory, Herding Cats, Law & Order & Other Things

On Thursday 28th April 2022, ULaw Vice-Chancellor and CEO Professor Craig Mahoney delivered the first in a new series of inaugural lectures to more than 100 delegates at the Moorgate Campus. His lecture, Chaos Theory, Herding Cats, Law & Order & Other Things, detailed his leadership journey and his vision for higher education.

Dean of Moorgate Caroline Carter hosted the event welcoming Student Union President, Daniel Finlay. Daniel formally introduced Professor Mahoney with a snapshot of his 30 years in the education sector, highlighting his earlier roles as Principle and Vice Chancellor of University of the West of Scotland and many initiatives he has been involved in from inclusion and diversity to higher education advocacy.  

After introducing himself to his audience, Professor Mahoney shared his pathway into the education sector and his own studies including the work he is most renowned for. “As an academic, for me, research is very important. So too is teaching and a professorial lecture is about demonstration what your combination of activities is between research and teaching. And one of the best papers I’ve ever published and been involved in was called Daily Energy Expenditure in Free Living Children. I did a lot of research in my early days on children’s health and fitness. This was done using a compound called doubly labelled water, which is a safe isotope, but when you inject it into people, you can determine what their physical expenditure is and work out what they’re doing in life. I looked at this paper today and can see it’s been cited 391 times, which means other researchers have made note of this work 391 times. The average piece of research in a university library is looked at between three and seven times. That’s why it makes me proud.”

Professor Mahoney shared his key objectives in any education setting:

  • Access for all
  • Consistent quality
  • Inclusivity in experience and knowledge
  • Building in thinking skills into classroom teaching
  • Hearing and acting on the student voice
  • Putting students at the heart of everything
  • Moving with the time – evolution of higher education
  • Sustainability

Professor Mahoney went on to discuss changes he believes need to happen in higher education for it to continue successfully.

“There are many routes to work and university is not the only one. Of course, there is compelling data to say that if you go to university you are likely to be more successful, live longer, generate more money, be more influential and a whole variety of other proven characteristics and reasons of why people want to and should go to university.

“But we need to get the balance right and we’ve got to work out how to fund it. I’ve come out of Scotland after nine years where local students don’t pay any fees. Is that right or wrong? I don’t know. I didn’t like it because I got an average stipend of £6,500 per student in Scotland, where here we get £9,250. That would have made a £30 million difference to my budget in Scotland.

“So, there’s no right mechanism - I don’t think £9,250 is a great number. I think the £50,000 debt English students on a three year undergraduate program build up by the time they leave with their fees and living costs are pretty difficult to deal with and I think the interest that the government chooses to impose on this is appalling. If it was a zero-interest rated loan so they paid back £27,750 then I think that would be fair.”

Professor Mahoney also touched on leadership, exploring his consultative leadership style. “I do want people’s opinions. I’m doing a strategy roadshow at the moment around the campuses and I want people’s honest opinion. Tell me what you think. Tell me what you think about the University, about your experience working here, about what you think the students are experiencing, what you think about me? I want that level of honesty, that openness and honesty. I don’t mind being told, Craig, you’ve got it wrong - that’s not a problem with me. I really do want people to open up.”

You can watch all of Professor Mahoney's lecture on our YouTube channel now.


Sign up for the next event in our Inaugural Lecture series - Accounting: insight, foresight and hallucinations from Professor Marco Mongiello, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for The University of Law Business School on the 24th of May 2022. You can join us in person at Bloomsbury or online.