This month's OB of the Month is Sir Nigel Carrington. Sir Nigel is Vice-Chancellor of University of the Arts London and was knighted in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to Higher Education and the Creative Industries. Sir Nigel tells us about changing careers after 21 years and remembers the teachers who inspired him during his time at school.
- When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?
I was at Brighton College between 1969-74. In those days, the School only had about 350 pupils. Being, at that stage, a conventionally ambitious student, I wanted to be a lawyer and expected to become a barrister.
- What was the best piece of advice you were given?
Tony Whitestone advised me to study at St John’s College Oxford, undoubtedly the most beautiful Oxford college.
- What is your best memory of school?
The teaching in the sixth form was superb – Fred Hankins (who sadly died at a relatively young age) was an inspirational economics teacher. John Griffin and Philip Robinson gave me an absolute passion for English literature and John Ridler and Tony Whitestone were inspirational French teachers.
- What are you now you've grown up?
I studied law at Oxford and then spent 21 years as an international Mergers and Acquisitions lawyer. For the last six years of my legal career, I was also Managing Partner and European Chairman of Baker McKenzie, the international law firm. However, my life since 2000 has been very different: I first became Managing Director of McLaren Group (the automotive technologies group which included the McLaren Formula One team) and then had another change of direction 5 years later and studied History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Art, and particularly 20th Century British art, had become my passion since the late 1980s and I was lucky enough then to be head-hunted as Vice-Chancellor of University of the Arts London (UAL). UAL brought together most of the leading London art schools, including Central Saint Martins, and my task has been to develop the global profile of the University. Last year, our University was named as one of the leading two Universities in the world for the study of arts and design.
- What does your job involve?
The term “Vice-Chancellor” is rather antiquated. I am the Chief Executive of the University, responsible for the overall welfare of our 20,000 students (half of them from outside the UK) and our financial and strategic success. I’m also very involved in advocating for the importance of creativity and culture, both for social good and wellbeing and for the economic success of society. It’s an intense but enormously satisfying job.
- What have you done that you are most proud of?
I have an enormously happy family with three children with whom my wife, Lizzie, and I are very close. Happy and fulfilling relationships are the most important thing in my life.
- What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
An extra six hours in every day.
- What object would you most want to take with you to a desert island?
A fine music system with a lifetime subscription to a music streaming service.
- How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who cared.