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Dame Mavis Macdonald

(Elected 2008)

Despite never actually studying at Birkbeck, Dame Mavis McDonald has made a significant impact in her nine years as an independent Governor and has grown very attached to the College.

In 1966, after completing her BSc in Economics and Politics at the London School of Economics, she went straight to work in the Civil Service and never looked back until her retirement in 2005. Working in a wide range of roles, including Permanent Secretary and Accounting Officer at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office, she was involved in housing, planning, regeneration, neighbourhood renewal, social exclusion, countryside policy, and local government structure and finances.

'I loved being a civil servant; you are right at the heart of everything and get to be involved in extremely important and influential matters,' says Dame Mavis.

It was in 1999 that Dame Judith Mayhew, Chair of the Birkbeck Governors, asked if she was interested in becoming an independent Governor. 'I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I quickly found out what a fascinating place Birkbeck is,' she comments. 'The commitment and enthusiasm of the students is unlike any other university, and the quality of teaching and research is constantly outstanding. Birkbeck really punches above its weight. At the beginning, being a Governor felt like learning a new language – the government acronyms and the funding regimes all seemed like double Dutch, but I soon became completely immersed.'

Dame Mavis continued her work as a civil servant throughout her first six years as a College Governor: 'We were encouraged to widen our interests outside of our work and it was fascinating to see the Department of Education from a completely different perspective.'

Before her role as Governor at the College ended in September 2008, Dame Mavis had also taken on the responsibilities of Deputy Chair from October 2004 to September 2008, membership of the Finance and General Purposes Committee, the Remuneration Committee and Chair of the Working Party on Governors Effectiveness 2007–2008.

'It has been satisfying to see the progress of the College in the last 10 years, especially with the opening of Stratford and the development of the main building. Birkbeck is now a wonderful, modern institution that can compete with the best. I had such a great time as a Governor and was very sad leave, but I am honoured to be appointed a Fellow. This way I can keep in contact with the College because it would be terrible to sever the link after all we have been through. I will miss the place as I was very happy here,' she concludes.

Despite leaving Birkbeck, Dame Mavis is still as busy as ever. She has recently become an independent member of the Council of the University of Cambridge, is currently a trustee of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Chair of the Catalyst Housing Group, the Public Sector Construction Clients forum for the Office of Government Commerce, and the Standards Board of the Commercial Landlords Accreditation Scheme for the British Property Federation.