Profile: Rosie Mortimer

Rosie Mortimer joined the Medical Sciences Division as Senior Assistant Registrar in January 2012, when this profile was compiled. She was formerly Head of Administration and Finance in the Mathematical Institute and her answers are based on this previous role. The Medical Sciences Division website is at and the Mathematical Institute’s website is

Rosie Mortimer in her new office

What did your role at the Mathematical Institute entail?

I was responsible for the administration of a large department in the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division. In line with the standard remit of senior departmental administrators I was responsible for strategy and planning, financial management, personnel administration, academic administration, facilities management as well as involvement in various university working groups and committees. Latterly my main involvement in University business was membership of the Advisory Group for the Personnel Toolkit part of the HR Information Systems project and the Steering Group for the project overseeing the upgrade of the University’s financial system (Oracle Financials). Within the department my primary focus was on planning, personnel management and budgeting and forecasting. I was responsible for a team of around sixty support and administrative staff and had ten direct reports.

How did you get into this job?

This is a question could result in an answer the length of War and Peace!  The abridged version is as follows: 

I originally joined the University in 1993 as PA to the Registrar. This was a grade 5 post which was re-graded to 6 while I was in it. My work at that point was very much a “day job” to support my other life as a knitwear designer. I worked for the Registrar for about three years when I had the opportunity to join some other craftspeople in setting up a small gallery in north Oxford.

I therefore resigned my post but was asked if I could do some part-time, short-term work helping the Secretary of the Board of Literae Humaniores (Classics). For various reasons this turned into a series of fixed term contracts all at grade 6. At the end of this period I had a time away from the University that ended when I felt the need for a day job again and took a part-time grade 4 job working for the head of the newly formed Student Administration section.

This came to an end when my husband and I moved to London. While in London I initially went back to working in publishing as assistant to a Literary Agent but quickly realised that I wanted to get back into higher education. A brief spell at London College of Fashion as PA to the Dean of Fashion Design and Technology convinced me that I actually wanted to make this a career rather than a “day job” supporting my design work.

It wasn’t obvious how I could progress in that role, so I moved to UCL as Finance and Academic Affairs Administrator in the Economics Department. This was once more a grade 6 post but was regraded to ALC2 (now grade 7) shortly after I started following the addition of more financial and strategic planning elements to the role. This felt like a major achievement. At that time, prior to the move to the single pay spine in the mid 2000s, clerical grade 6 overlapped with ALC1 but it seemed very difficult to move from the clerical grades to the academic-related grades. I subsequently became administrator of a research centre within the department which was an ALC3 (now grade 8) post.

In 2004 my husband and I moved back to north Oxfordshire so I started looking for jobs at the University again and was appointed as Departmental Administrator in Social Policy and Social Work (grade 8) in May 2004. I moved to Maths in February 2007 because although I enjoyed being in Social Policy and Social Work, I was keen to move to a bigger, more complex department. When I joined, the Mathematical Institute was starting a period of expansion – the number of staff grew by approximately a third and the turnover more than doubled. My post was subsequently regraded from grade 9 to grade 10 in recognition of how much the department and the complexity of the role had grown. 

So I’ve worked in every grade from grade 4 to grade 10 in a career at Oxford that started in 1993.

What led you to originally apply to work at Oxford?

My early working career encompassed a variety of roles. I worked briefly in the health service and publishing, and started training as a charted accountant before working at the University of Warwick for three years in the mid-1980s as an administrator in the English Department. I was starting to look for more challenging roles when a move to London meant leaving higher education to work for a literary agency. In 1993 I was getting married and moving to north Oxfordshire from London. This necessitated finding a job in the Oxford area and the University was an obvious place to look for employment given how much I’d enjoyed working at Warwick earlier.

Thinking about your career, what would you like to be doing in the future?

Given that I’ve only just moved to a new job (in January 2012), it’s a bit early to think about my next move! I was motivated to apply for the role in the Medical Sciences Division to get a different perspective on the University and to be in a more strategically-focussed job. There are not that many opportunities at my level and above, which is why I thought a sideways move (my new role is also a grade 10) might expand my future possibilities. I’d be interested in a more senior role in a division or department.

What do you like about working here?

The complexity and variety. 

The University is immensely complex and I love finding out how it all works. Two weeks into my new job, I’m attending meetings where at the moment I don’t yet have a detailed understanding of what’s happening, but I’m starting to make links and work out relationships and I find this very satisfying. Although I have had a number of roles here, I’ve never changed jobs because of boredom or frustration, but because I’ve been in search of the next challenge.

What are the challenges of working here?

The same complexity and variety!

The challenges of working here are like a puzzle that needs solving: an academic might want to bid for a large research project and so you need to work out answers to all the questions that arise from this. Is there sufficient space to house the project? If there isn’t how do we get new space? How will refurbishments be funded? Does the university have to put in matching funding? Are there any financial or other risks associated with the project? How will the project be managed? If it’s a large project how will it fit into the governance structure of the department? And so on…


Last updated: January 2012