Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli,
Principal and Vice-Chancellor,
University of Glasgow
It is perhaps something of a cliché to highlight the fact that Universities are complex organisations whose success depends on a network of interrelated, interconnected roles and responsibilities: take any element away, diminish the significance of any part, whether within the academic, support or service areas, and the whole suffers.
This document – The Technician Commitment – is not only an important reminder of one such community within the University network, but just as important, stands as a call to recognise the very real contribution our technicians make to the life, success and achievement of our Universities.
Technicians represent a significant proportion of any University community with around 9,000 working within the Russell group, over 630 in my own University representing just over 8% of our staff. They are a highly trained group of individuals with the great majority skilled to degree level or above. They play key roles through their support of, and contribution to, research, the training of PhD and postdoctoral researchers, and undergraduate teaching. More than that, as they pass on their knowledge and skills, so they equip each new generation of students with a range of abilities that not only enhance their career prospects, but the skills base of the future workforce whether in academia, research and development or industry. The work, knowledge and professionalism of our technicians, provide a rich skills resource we couldn’t live without.
Given Universities reliance on our technicians, it has been interesting to observe the way in which the drive to develop an Industrial Strategy for the UK, has been a catalyst to reenergise the longstanding debate and concerns around a skills deficit and how this might be addressed in a modern economy in a highly competitive world. These are debates and concerns we surely share. As Universities, we need to think carefully on how we maintain and sustain the pipeline of technical skills essential to our success. While there are many answers to this, not least our ability to attract talent from around the world, I think it underlines the critical importance of nurturing the talents of our technicians, now, ensuring that their roles are presented as an attractive, challenging and fulfilling career option for this, the next, and future generations of technicians.
This document aims to do just that by encouraging all of us involved in higher education to support and sign up to the commitment and so align ourselves with the five key drivers it promotes: Visibility, Recognition, Career Development, Sustainability and Evaluating Impact. It’s encouraging that so many in the sector and associated with it, have already signed up and I would certainly encourage others to follow suit. If there have been perceptions in the past that our technicians are either ‘undervalued’ or our ‘unsung heroes’, it is time to dispel and address these perceptions in real ways: the Technician Commitment shows the way forward and I commend it to you.