Global Leaders Series: Chris Rudd, Provost, University of Nottingham Ningbo China

DrEducation Global Leaders Series: Interview with Professor Chris Rudd

Professor Christopher D. Rudd is currently University of Nottingham’s longest serving Pro-Vice-Chancellor – a position he has held since 2008. In August 2015 he accepted the role of Provost at University of Nottingham Ningbo China and is currently based in China where he oversees the growth and development of China’s first and most successful Sino-Foreign University. Chris is Professor of Mechanical Engineering. He has been a Board Member of the China Britain Business Council since 2010 and chairs the Nottingham Confucius Institute. Chris was awarded the Changbaishan Friendship Award by the Chinese Government in 2013. He was awarded the 48 Group Club Icebreaker Laureate prize for services to Sino-UK relations by HE Liu Xiaoming Chinese Ambassador to UK and won the Model Confucius Institute Award presented by Vice-Premier LIU Yandong in 2015. 

Rahul- How has the broad notion of leadership in higher education different in this decade as compared to last decade? How will it look like in the next decade?

Chris-Whether we like it or not, successful HE leaders need to exhibit the same instincts as any other CEOs. They need to respond to market dynamics and steer their institutions in volatile circumstances, innovating to create new business opportunities, manage risk, recruit and retain talent. They need strong vision and considerable personal integrity to carry stakeholders with them through increasingly frequent cycles of change.

Rahul- More specifically, what are the top three competencies for a Provost/Chief Academic Officer? How are they likely to evolve in the next decade?

Chris- My top 3 have always been Vision, Integrity and an uncompromising commitment to Quality. These are fundamental characteristics but the successful leader needs to be great reader of people, using the available talent to best effect, to anticipate the market and to have great emotional intelligence.

Rahul- What would be your couple of suggestions (e.g. do’s and don’ts) to higher education professionals aspiring to take the Provost’s role?

Chris- Recognise your fallibility and your finite bandwidth. Try to define the space where you can play effectively and the outer spaces where it is your team that must deliver. Provide feedback to others in generous measure but ask for it sparingly yourself. Admit your own mistakes candidly and deal with them expediently, learn and move on.

Rahul- How is leading an institution outside your country of origin different (e.g. challenges, operating styles, skillsets or people)?

Chris- It introduces complexities due to culture, communication and context. It makes business more complicated but also more interesting, bringing unpredictable elements and factors outside your personal influence. You will rely on others to bridge you into their world and you must quickly learn to discriminate between those who help you with a pure heart and those who seek personal advantage. You must adapt your own approach to suit the environment but at the same time, hold true to your mission and personal values.

Rahul- How do you draw your inspiration and energy as a leader? What is your leadership motto?
Chris- I have worked with some inspiring leaders in the past and borrowed freely from each – learning as much by observing mistakes as well as witnessing great leadership in action. Leading UNNC is an intensive, exciting responsibility. However, it is important to stay fresh and so personally I need a counterpoint – time with my kids, a climbing trip, playing music with people – all of these things bring peace and happiness. When I came to UNNC I started saying “Being the first is now longer enough, we also have to be the best” – I think that this works for our students as well as for the business I hope that it sticks for a while.