On Friday February 2, the University of Edinburgh’s new Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Mathieson began his tenure in the most hands-on way: braving a class of second year medical students.
Mathieson, who graduated with a first-class honours degree in Medicine from the University of London and has a PHD from the University of Cambridge, was previously Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Bristol. He specialises in renal medicine, which spoke on at his lecture on Friday.
Mathieson has previously told The Student that he did not want his lecture to be seen as a publicity stunt: “I enjoy talking about kidney disease and physiology so for me to get to the opportunity was just great. I really don’t want it to become a media circus, it’s a teaching session,” he said in an interview last month.
The new principal also tried to focus on teaching in the run-up to his starting at Edinburgh, stating on the university’s website: “I’m passionate about teaching – the best teachers can be instrumental in inspiring people to go on to do great things.”
The teaching on Friday was met with mixed reviews. One second year student said: “I thought it was a good lecture overall […] He asked us questions, which lecturers don’t normally do, which makes you pay attention.
“I think it is a good thing for the principal to give lectures – good for them to spend time with students and students to actually see them around.”
Another medic who was present had a less warm review of Mathieson’s lecture: “The content of the lecture wasn’t very relevant and had already been taught by other lecturers – though this might not be his fault for the topic he was given […] I ended up making notes for other lectures and catching up on other classes about half way through as he was saying exactly the same thing as was on his slides.
“I didn’t think the lecture was needed to be honest.”
At a time when the principal is under fire to justify his £342,000 salary, a 33 per cent increase on previous Vice-Chancellor Timothy O’Shea, and as staff with the University and College Union are preparing to strike over pensions changes, Mathieson will surely be pleased to have had focus shifted to his academic involvement in the university at the beginning of his tenure this month.
Image: Rosie Duckworth / Photographer