Profile: Angela Unsworth
Angela Unsworth MBE is Univ’s Domestic Bursar. In 2014 she was awarded an MBE for “outstanding and dedicated personal commitment to improving the services and support to all personnel and their families” at RAF Linton-on-Ouse where she was Squadron Leader.
How did you come to Univ?
It was Christmas 2014, 3 months since I had retired from the RAF and I was 3 months into a post with CarillionAmey on the new UK Defence Estates contract, a job I was hunted out for. It was clear to me even then that Carillion was a failing partner in the joint venture, although it took another 3 years for it to actually collapse (with 3 years’ worth more debt!). For more reasons than I can explain here, I took the view that turning Carillion’s fortunes was well beyond my pay grade; the organisation was already doomed. So, I picked up The Times appointments pages one day thinking that I really had to do something more constructive with my life, saw an advertisement for the Domestic Bursar’s post at University College, Oxford, thought “I can do that” and the rest, as they say, is history.
What does the role of Domestic Bursar (and Fellow!) involve?
In “civilian speak” the Domestic Bursar of a college is its Chief Operating Officer. Its basis is in providing services and facilities which support the overall organisational aims. So, I might support accommodation, catering, housekeeping, security and any number of other services, but I’m really here to ensure that those services support our educational aims. What is both rewarding and challenging is that as a trustee of the College as well as its Chief Operating Officer, it is incumbent on me to drive the very best standards for all the support networks which deliver education; I am both responsible and accountable for the success or failure of our College as a whole. Alongside all the other trustees of course. We are undoubtedly a world class, elite organisation, driving the best from the best; yet education is a force multiplier for tolerance and justice when applied at all levels, not just for an intellectual elite. If I can grow the people that serve the College, as the College grows its students, we can get the best out of everyone at Univ and we will be truly inspirational for it.
Do you have any advice for current students, especially during this strange time?
It is an exciting time to be at Univ. A crisis brings out the best and the worst in humanity, it gives us the motivations to consider how we can contribute to our society, how we can as individuals and as a collective can make a difference. No one of us can go this alone; we are dependent on each other to get through these times with body and soul intact. There are those in our midst who we look to, to beat this disease, those who we look to to lead us through the hard times ahead, those who comfort and reassure us on the way and those who are simply on the journey with us and who we will remember always. Be someone who is remembered for all the right reasons and enjoy the ride, however bumpy it gets. With a fair wind we are unlikely to ever experience anything like this again; use the opportunity to learn something about yourselves and each other.
What drew you to serving in the RAF?
Duty and service first. Camaraderie and adventure. The thought of being part of something bigger and more important than just me. The same things appealed to me when I joined the RAF as when I joined Univ 20 years later.
How did it feel to be awarded an MBE?
A state award is not a thing that is usually easy come by; look at how many years you need to be a lollipop lady for and you will get some measure of the dedication required. When asked I usually say it was awarded for being talented, charming and good looking – the usual stuff. It is actually for a ceaseless and tireless pursuit of a goal, and a goal that is, in whatever way, in the service of others. Perhaps HM The Queen might put it differently and, as she gave it to me, I would have to defer to her.
Have you faced any challenges in your life (personal or professional) that you are willing to share here? How did you cope with the challenge in question?
We could be here for a very long time if I thought of all the challenges which have beset me in life. Where best to land though than in this current challenge facing us all? Everything about what we are doing now in trying to guide the College safely through a global pandemic, is uncertain; we don’t know where we will find ourselves next week, never mind next year. There is no text book for this, no guidance and the challenge is enduring, which can be tiring; I have leant in no small measure on the loyalty of the DB, from the top of it to the bottom of it. We are doing the best we can, making sensible choices, thinking constantly about our best options and keeping our eyes firmly fixed on what is ahead as the earth shifts beneath our feet. So, how am I coping with this challenge? Without sparing their blushes it is undoubtedly with the friendship, wisdom and good sense of Rob Mercer and of Andrew Bell and Andrew Gregory, my compatriots on the College Bronze Team. Good friends and good colleagues see us all through the worst times of our lives; we’re blessed to have them on our team.
Describe Univ in three words.
Loyal, fair, inspirational. We live these values.
Published: 5 October 2020