What did Brian do wrong?

Chauffeurs, croquet and CBEs. looks at the highs and lows of a career that never won the hearts of the student body

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This summer, Brian Cantor will be stepping down from his role as Vice-Chancellor. Often described as “distant” from students, his time at York has not been without controversy.

Many would say that Cantor’s relationship with students at York is not a close one. Relations were worsened in 2008, when Cantor failed to turn up to a meeting which over 200 students had attended, because he was at a dinner in Oxford.

This only served to exacerbate already strained relations with both students and YUSU. By leaving his post early to take up the Vice-Chancellorship of the University of Bradford, Cantor has only highlighted his lack of commitment the students of York.

Cantor’s finances have come under intense scrutiny and criticism during his time at here.

In 2011, the Vice-Chancellor reached the height of his infamy when he was criticised on national television by Channel 4 in a Dispatches documentary for spending over £10,000 on chauffeur driven cars among other expense claims – including £70 for journeys between Heslington East and West.

It has been revealed that Cantor’s claimed £135,000 in expenses in 2010. The Vice-Chancellor has seen his six-figure salary increase exponentially – most remarkably between 2008 and 2011 when he received a £50,000 increase in pay.

Since Cantor took over, York’s position has fluctuated in the league tables. When Cantor first took over in 2002, York were ranked sixth in the UK according to the Guardian.

Whilst there was success in the World rankings in 2009, with the University achieving 70th place, York has now slumped to 17th in The Times’ league table after achieving 9th place only two years ago.

Whilst York’s rankings took a hit under Cantor, the prestige of the University has not suffered as significantly as suggested.

In 2010 York was named THE University of the Year, and in 2012 York was invited to join the esteemed Russell Group.

Overall, the development of the Heslington East campus will be Cantor’s most enduring legacy.

Whilst praised by some for pioneering expansion of this institution, the campus has not been without opposition. Rumours of a new campus began in 2003, with Cantor defending the plans in a public meeting. 2007 saw Heslington East finally getting the go-ahead, with building beginning a year later.

The state-of-the-art York Sport Village has arguably been the most extravagant success of the Hes East development.

In 2011, Cantor boasted that the Hes East development will create 8,000 new jobs for the local economy, the same year that he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the York Press.

However, with Langwith and Goodricke residents complaining about the lack of on-campus facilities, having only recently installed a cash machine and temporary shop, the success of Cantor’s Heslington East development is up for debate.

Despite this, Cantor has seen some personal successes while at York.

In 2011, he was named 33rd most influential man in the North of England and in last year’s Honours List, he was awarded a CBE for services to education.
Nonetheless, the Vice-Chancellor’s most memorable achievement for the students of York has probably been his domination of the croquet game at Roses 2013 – with the help of Kallum Taylor and Greg Dyke.

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