Professor Chris Harris has officially taken the mantle of Vice President of Academic Affairs at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, succeeding Professor David Goodman, who has retired from the University.

Professor Harris joined XJTLU in October 2019 as the Director of the Modern Languages Centre; in September the following year, he took on the role of Dean of the School of Languages. He officially assumed his VPAA duties on 18 February.

While the position of VPAA is a big shift from that of a Dean, Professor Harris says there are some areas and priorities that remain constant.

“As Dean, it was my job to guide and support Heads of Department and staff into doing work they’re truly proud of. I wanted to create a culture where everybody felt a sense of identity, a sense of belonging, and knew exactly what they were doing.

“I've always thought about leadership as being supportive, enabling, empowering and listening. It's not about me simply telling people what to do, because if I haven’t taken the time to listen, I’ll get it wrong.”

Another aspect, explains Professor Harris, is efficiency. “One big challenge for any university, frankly, is creating time. How do you create time for your teachers to teach brilliantly? How do you create time for your researchers to research? It’s our job to find out how we can support them to do what they do best.”

Before coming to XJTLU, Professor Harris worked in the UK.

“My career as an academic was forged at University of Liverpool, because I was there for 20 years. I was promoted to a personal chair there and I was Head of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at UoL, until I took early retirement,” he says.

“That retirement didn't last more than a few weeks before I was asked to come to XJTLU.”

Professor Harris describes the role of VPAA as ‘hugely exciting’, and looks forward to being a part of the future development of the University: “This job is an opportunity to contribute to the ongoing development of a University that I see as young, dynamic, energetic and successful.”

By Patricia Pieterse

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