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In conversation with Professor Andrew Jones, Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences

New Dean Professor Andrew Jones outlines his ambitions for the newly merged School and promises to 'lead from the front'

by Ben Sawtell

Andrew JonesWhat made you decide to join City University London?
City is an extremely appealing prospect for an academic. I cannot remember a time when the education sector has been under such scrutiny and in this challenging environment City set out an ambitious and exciting Vision. In any sector facing considerable challenges there are also numerous opportunities and I feel City is well placed in that sense.

Personally, I would describe myself as an interdisciplinary social scientist and I share interests with colleagues across the School from Sociology to International Politics and Economics. Coming from a human geography background, my interests also overlap with colleagues at Cass Business School.

What challenges do you expect from managing your School's diversity of disciplines?
I believe the benefit derived from the merger of the School of Arts and Social Sciences far outweighs any issues that arise. There will be challenges associated with managing such a large School but also opportunities from interdepartmental collaboration.

It is essential that universities harness their combined strengths rather than working in silos and as Dean I aim to foster a sense of School identity and a collegiate atmosphere. Departments can learn a great deal from each other and individual experiences can benefit the collective, helping in everything from improving the student experience to developing a research excellent culture.

What is your vision for Research and Enterprise?
The definition of 'research excellence' has changed under the Research Excellence Framework (REF), leading to a very different experience to that of the 2008 Research Excellence Assessment.

Universities face a significant challenge to build new platforms under the rules of research as dictated by the Government, by the Higher Education Funding Council for England  (HEFCE) and by the wider competitive national and international climates that we work in.

We have a very good Enterprise team at City and their input into the success of the University is vital. City is well placed to demonstrate research with meaningful impact outside academia and I aim to encourage an outward, commercially facing culture.

What is top of your 'to do' list?

Having only been here for a short time, my first priority is to meet as many people as I can. There is a lot to learn at a very exciting time for the School, with a drive and purpose radiating from the Vice-Chancellor throughout the University.

What are your research interests? Will you have time for research as Dean?
As previously mentioned, I am interdisciplinary with a human geography background but I have also been chair of the Economic Geography Research Group, which marries sociological concerns with the economy and organisation and management studies. I have also written books on globalisation that overlap with politics.

Since my PhD I have worked on professional industries including investment banking, management consultancy and legal services so a major strand of my economy-oriented research is concerned with business service firms' internationalisation.

A particular focus at present is the internationalisation of these industries into emerging economies - especially Asia - with an urban dimension to my research and I have contributed to debates around the nature of global city networks.

I feel it is vital for me to lead from the front as Dean and to continue my research output. It will be difficult for me to encourage a research excellent culture if I am not engaged in a meaningful way myself. I currently have a research grant from the British Academy of Social Sciences, one strand of which examines the contexts of strategies for UK investment management firms investing in the Chinese economy. I am also in the early stages of a new book on voluntary work.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.