Revd Canon Peter Winn talks to us about his role as Chair and Pro Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University Council.
Revd Canon Peter Winn talks to us about his role as Chair and Pro Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University Council. Liverpool Hope University’s distinctive philosophy is to ‘educate in the round’ – mind, body and spirit – in the quest for Truth, Beauty and Goodness. The university is unique in the city for its history as an ecumenical success story
What does your position as Chair and Pro Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University Council involve?
There are two aspects to it. The Pro Chancellor is a ceremonial and ambassadorial role. It means attending events such as graduations and the title means ‘deputy for the chancellor’ so I would stand in if the present chancellor Lord Charles Guthrie. wasn’t able to attend something.
The Chair of the University Council is the major work and it means I chair the governing body of the institution. It’s similar to being chair of a school governing body but on a larger scale. We are responsible for holding the management of the university to account and for overseeing the strategic direction and the ethos of the university. The council does that through a number of sub committees, audit - finance and risk, staffing, estates and health and safety.
It is an interesting role and fairly time consuming. There are four council meetings a year and the committee meetings leading up to those. I also have other responsibilities such as considering mission and values. I meet with the Vice Chancellor Professor Pillay and we think about the direction of the university. I try to be visible around the campus, my duties take roughly a day a week and so if there are no meetings on I go and wander and say hello to people. Hope is a very vibrant and special place where people want to be. The sense of community in the place is fantastic.
Why do you believe that a church foundation university still has a place in 21st century tertiary education?
We offer a very particular university life really, and it’s not to say that nobody else can offer that but we focus on it. It’s based on John Henry Newman's idea of a collegium which is a community of scholars. The collegium takes each person very seriously and that person's development in the round. Not just academically but the development of the whole person is very important to Hope. One of the things Hope says about itself is that it’s a ‘real’ community not a ‘virtual’ community which means that the students and the staff know one another. All of the academics, even the most important and high flying, teach undergraduates.
We pride ourselves on being a research-led university but we also provide excellent teaching, in the student surveys we come out as very good at teaching and we have just been awarded Gold in the Teaching Excellence metric from the government. We take the individual person seriously. We get good results for employability but it is important to us that we form the person rather than just train them to fit a mould. We have something called a service and leadership award which is voluntary but a lot of students choose to do it and they give of their time to help people who need support and contribute to society.
How do you balance your two roles of Chair and Pro Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University Council as well as well as being parish priest at St Margaret’s in Anfield?
The simple answer is that both roles resource each other, my work at Hope feeds into parish life and parish ministry feeds Hope.
Practically, my wife is now a non stipendary curate in the parish and we have a retired priest working with us so they take some of the workload from me. What I have found is working in a place like Hope which is so different to parish life it gives it another energy. It refreshes me to go away and do my work at the university and then come back to parish life with a renewed drive to do the parish work.
The parish benefits from some of the thinking done at Hope. Our meetings at the university are not all practical meetings, we think around questions such as what is a university for, what higher education is for and what it means to be a Christian Foundation in this time. The first council meeting every year is a reflective meeting where there is no practical business and we give the council the opportunity to think outside the box. The ‘Hope Way’ foundation document begins with “the search for truth, beauty and goodness” which I think is a marvellous statement to start with and the council was given time in the first meeting of this year to reflect on what that really means. The commitment works both ways. The Theology department at Hope this year is doing a series of lectures about the Reformation as it’s the 500th anniversary. Dr Gergely Juhász Senior Lecturer in Theology and Biblical Studies at Hope came out to do a talk about Luther for an Ecumenical group in north Liverpool. Those lectures are open to all - anyone who wants to go to them.
Where does God feature within the work that Hope University does?
We have a very evident chaplaincy which is very involved in the life of the university but actually, it is this collegium idea together with the notion of the incarnation. God is assumed in all of the things that we do. The notion of God is embedded in the structures of the university. We welcome students of all faiths and indeed no faith and they are treated the same way. Every student is seen as a person who will be formed and whose formation is important to us. Formation is a very important word in the life of the university and we take it very seriously and this is part of our Christian commitment. People are made in the image of God and so they may not be treated as commodities. Formation is about releasing potential and about people becoming more and more human, which means more and more like Christ.
On a personal level do you feel proud of the work the university does?
When it comes to the graduations that are held each year alternating between Liverpool Cathedral and the Metropolitan Cathedral they are fantastic occasions, there is a real joy about them. We get students from all over the world but quite a lot from here in Liverpool and all the families come. The sense of achievement and celebration is fantastic. I get quite paternalistic about them, I see them as ‘my students’ even though I might not know many of them personally but it’s that sense of community I referred to earlier. You need good grades to get into Hope but we are very keen on widening participation so that those who maybe come from families where they are the first to go to university are encouraged to come and are supported while they are here. I’m really proud of the staff and we have great students.