Chris Cobb

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Chris Cobb (born ca 1965) is a British computer scientist and PVC, chief operating officer and University Secretary at the University of London. He was previously Pro Vice-Chancellor at University of Roehampton, London, England and prior to that was at London School of Economics.

Life and work[edit]

Cobb received his degree in Business and Computing in the late 1980s, and started his career at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) as analyst programmer, and made it to Director of Business Systems and Services in 1996.[1] In 2005 he was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor at the Roehampton University, and in 2011 back at the University of London he became chief operating officer and University Secretary. He was promoted to PVC in 2014.[2]

Cobb taught University IT Management on the ESMU – HUMANE Winter School for Senior University Administrators and has undertaken JISC funded research in the use of IT in Chinese Universities as part of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education Sino-UK exchange programme.

Cobb is a member of the AHUA National Executive where he leads in liaison with Jisc and UUK on cyber security. Previously he has sat on a number of national working groups relating to IT in Higher Education, including the Jisc Organisation Support Committee, Board membership of JISC infoNet. and chairing the UCISA CISG between 2003 and 2005. He also chaired a UCAS working group investigating improvements to the recruitment and admittance of part-time students into Higher Education.

Cobb is an advocate of sharing services across universities and speaks regularly on the advantages of efficiency, quality and cost. He has been awarded several grants to develop new services and was a member of the HEFCE Shared Services working group. In 2013 Cobb initiated a programme to develop the University of London into a "significant provider of shared services to higher education."

Cobb provides consultancy to other universities on the use of IT and in 2008 (on behalf of the EUA) provided advice on the integration on IT infrastructure and systems for the merger of four universities in Strasbourg; Louis Pasteur University, Robert Schuman University, Marc Bloch University and l'Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres d'Alsace. In 2008 Cobb led a successful funding bid from the JISC to experiment in the use of enterprise architecture within a university context with the specific aim of developing a service-oriented architecture to systems integration and thus enabling greater accessibility to shared services. This project is due to conclude in mid-2010. In 2013 Cobbs is involved in developing the University of London into a "significant provider of shared services to higher education".[3]

Chris is a judge on the Times Higher Education Awards and the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards and is a member of the HEFCE Cloud Advisory Board. He is elected member of the Royal Society of Arts.[1]

Controversy[edit]

Cobb came under fire from student activists[4] and left-wing politicians for his handling of a series of protests by students and workers, and in an Early Day Motion George Galloway MP described Cobb as being 'nakedly mendacious' for saying that the University supported peaceful protest.[5]

Quotes[edit]

  • "HEFCE has defined shared services as a 'model of providing services in a combined or collaborative function, sharing processes and technology'... Previously there appeared to be a built-in opposition to shared services due to infringement of institutional independence and the constraints over operational flexibility – but that's now gone.
    Among staff there is now probably greater anxiety and suspicion about shared services. Many feel that it is just a euphemism for outsourcing, putting jobs at risk – more so now than previously due to the backdrop of funding reductions and an increase in redundancy programmes.
    Where the service is going to be shared across a number of institutions, you're going to be part of a larger group so your career opportunities and potential for broadening the impact of what you do and developing your experience and skill base will be enhanced. It can be lonely if you're the only person in an institution working on a particular area."
  • "The best tool of all is a conversation. E-mails and reports aren't enough, it's amazing how little understood shared services are and how entrenched views can be. A simple and on-going dialogue can be time consuming but is time well spent. Above all, keep the dialogue going. The same's true of a lot of things – if you have a conversation, the hostility and opposition falls away."

Selected Publications[edit]

  • Cobb, Chris. "New approaches to technology in HE management." Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education 16.4 (2012): 136–145.

References[edit]

External links[edit]