Notes from a Chancellor
(8 October 2008)
World-famous author Dr Bill Bryson gives an insight into his role as Chancellor of Durham University in a new publication.
Dr Bryson, who became Durham’s eleventh Chancellor in 2005, talks about his admiration for the City and the University in Beyond Ceremony, published by Universities UK. He joins forces with 32 other chancellors across the country in lifting the lid on the ancient office of a university Chancellor. Dr Bryson said: “Life as a university chancellor is much more than just varied and interesting. It’s amazing. “It is like this for me every time I visit the University, except that each time it is a different set of amazements. “Durham, I have come to realise, has a capacity to astound out of all proportion to its size. “I don’t know any place that manages to be more intimate and infinite at once.” Beyond Ceremony provides a glimpse into what a university chancellor does and how the role complements that of the Vice-Chancellor. Dr Bryson goes on to talk about how his role involves not only conferring degrees at graduation ceremonies but also attending events with staff, students and graduates, talking to the media or being an ambassador for Durham University around the world. He adds: “If I can be an advocate for the University, UK higher education and moreover the general policies of intellectual and pastoral discovery and adventure, then I think I will be doing my job pretty well.” Dr Bryson appears alongside a wide-range of other well-known figures, who offer their own special insights into the position giving new chancellors a chance to gain useful tips from old hands. Contributors include Jon Snow, newsreader, journalist and presenter (Oxford Brookes University); former Governor of Hong Kong and EU Commissioner, Lord Patten (University of Oxford and Newcastle University) and Patrick Stewart, film, television and stage actor (University of Huddersfield). Lacking a formal job description, the role of chancellor gives those appointed the scope to apply their own experience, something Dr Bryson is well-equipped to do. Born in the US, he lived most of his adult life in England and is best known for his series of highly successful travel books, offering witty and insightful observations of life in North America, Britain, Europe and Australia. Famous not only for his books but also for his notable media profile and dedicated promotion of cultural and environmental issues, Dr Bryson also was appointed as Commissioner for English Heritage in 2003 and President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England in 2007.