Ms. Wendy Alexander

Wendy Alexander 2

Position: Vice-Principal (International)

Telephone: +44 (0) 1382 383171

Email: m.z.hendry@dundee.ac.uk

Biography

Wendy Alexander is Vice-Principal (International), and leads the University’s international strategy and engagement. She is a member of the University Executive.  Previously at London Business School, she managed all global degree programmes and was also a member of the Executive team.

Wendy also spent over a decade in government and politics. She served in the first three Scottish Cabinets, including as Minister with responsibility for Further and Higher Education, holding the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, Transport and Communities portfolios and also served as Scottish Labour Leader in Holyrood.

Educated in Canada, US and France, Wendy is a graduate of Glasgow and Warwick Universities and holds an MBA from Insead, France. Prior to joining UK Government in 1997, as Special Adviser to Rt Hon Donald Dewar, she worked in international strategy consultancy with Booz & Co. in US, Europe and Asia.

She is a member of the Investment Advisory Board of Scottish Equity Partners LLP, a Trustee of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, a Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh and a member of RSE’s Business Innovation Forum.  She has sat on the policy advisory boards of the Social Market Foundation and Reform Scotland and holds Honorary Doctorates from Strathclyde University and UWS.

She has published on devolution and public policy, including as a Visiting Professor at Strathclyde, where she led the Allander Series bringing Nobel Laureates to Scotland and co-editing New Wealth for Old Nations: Scotland’s Economic Prospects (Princeton University Press, 2005).

Q & A with Wendy Alexander

Badly! But oh so much better than in the past! The children keep your feet on the ground and stop work looming too large in one’s life. It is so true that we will not have on our gravestones “I wish I had worked harder”. Amongst my close girlfriends many of whom I met at business school over twenty years ago we are all dogged about defending our weekends. Even if it is only about doing the washing! Preserving the weekend for the family was a key factor in my decision to exit politics. And we need to uphold that space for our colleagues. And then of course there is the garden….a pursuit that seems to grow on us with advancing age! 

Dundee’s mission is about transforming lives both locally and globally.  That is something you can feel proud about every morning. The city and its waterfront are on the threshold of a new era, the university has a new focus on growth backed by outstanding student experiences and path breaking research into areas like exciting drug compounds with the potential to tackle the scourge of malaria. 

Having the opportunity to hold high government office in Scotland – it was an added bonus to have cabinet level responsibility for higher education!  So over fifteen years ago pioneered the first funding specifically dedicated to wider access, created the unified Scottish Funding Council and began the research pooling exercise to support excellence in Scottish Universities.  

However over a career of almost 30years I have been lucky enough at different times to work in the private sector, in government, in the voluntary sector and also in higher education. Men often view their careers as Himalayan ascents, for women if can be more meandering. Someone once described it as the difference between taking the lift at Covent Garden tube or taking the stairs! However I think this non-linear approach that many women adopt is rarely suited to a research intensive academic environment and so women in academia can face additional obstacles if they try and step out or change direction for a while.  

We should accelerate progress towards women advancing at every level in higher education. But as politics and the corporate world demonstrate progress requires sustained institutional commitment from men and women. We are lucky enough to have some very distinguished women principals in Scotland but that should not blind us to the leaky pipeline at every level. So we need a deeper commitment to tackling unconscious bias in academia and be willing to learn from the mounting evidence at home and overseas about what can really make the difference when it comes to women’s career progression.

Someone who inspires others to tread the path they trod. One of my first experiences at Dundee was to hear Jocelyn Bell Burnell, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh talk about her career as an astrophysicist. There was not a person in the audience who was not inspired by her story, shaken by obstacles she encountered and persuaded of the heights we still have to scale to allow everyone to fulfil their true potential 

The ability to contribute to something really important.  Although those who have been here a while  may sometimes feel either too blasé or too bruised to always recognise it as relative new comer  I see something very precious here. This is a great institution with a proud record, achieving remarkable things and with big dreams. I am lucky enough to hold a position where I can help harness tremendous goodwill across the institution to make things happen and then see the impact. 

It is all right to take time to smell the roses! Or in the case of Dundee  to day dream  out the window at the beauty of the light on the Tay