The year 2022 marks the end of Vincent Blondel’s term as Chair of The Guild. Vincent was our second Chair, originally elected in 2017 when The Guild had just been created, with nineteen member universities having come together in the preceding twelve months.
After an initial year in which The Guild had established a number of foundational policy positions on research and education, Vincent oversaw an expansion of our policy reach as we developed expertise on more specific topics in research, education and innovation. During his period of office, we began to engage not only with the Directorates-General in Research and Innovation, and in Education. We further developed fruitful dialogues with DG SANTE (Health), DG CNCT (Digital), DG EMPL (Employment), and DG INTPA (International Partnerships). And we intensified our work with the European Parliament and the European Council.
The General Assemblies held since 2017 very much bear Vincent’s imprint, as he sought to balance policy discussions with trusted exchanges on common challenges among university presidents. This focus did not waver during the pandemic, as Vincent was keen to develop formats that sustained the quality of exchange among presidents in a virtual world.
Vincent’s attention to the interpersonal side of the General Assembly was also reflected in his concern that trust among presidents should overcome potential rivalry in the creation of different European University networks within The Guild. The congeniality and trust among presidents has increased noticeably over the five years of his term of office; a process also supported by Vincent’s legendary quiz games testing presidents’ knowledge of each others’ institutions!
Under Vincent’s leadership, the informal side of The Guild was strengthened as much as its formal side. We developed robust processes to maximize the transparency of how common positions were formed, and how decisions were arrived at. Moreover, The Guild benefited appreciably from the support of UCLouvain in checking our financial accounts, and in the revision of our statutes.
Last but by no means least, Vincent was a great supporter of the office and its staff, taking a personal interest in the development of each staff member, and being a rock of support for the Secretary-General. We have appreciated his trust as much as the wisdom of his advice.
Vincent was a perfect Chair for The Guild in its formative period, setting standards for how we work, leading through his particular capacity for seeking – and building on – consensus. We are hugely grateful for his commitment and support.