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Think of a bursar and you might think of someone responsible only for finance (possibly housed in a dusty, ledger-filled attic office).
But as Aiglon bursar, Mrs Patricia Bremner Gadotti’s role encompasses far more than simply the accounts.
“Everything that isn’t teaching falls within the bursar’s remit,” she explains. “That includes finances, but it’s also just as much about keeping on top of all the other business aspects, such as services, operations and support functions.”
Mrs Bremner Gadotti is ably assisted by two deputies and other department heads who are responsible for specific functions – finance management, campus maintenance and development, the school shop, catering, IT services and Summer School programmes, to name but a few.
In fact, she says, it’s vital to the health of the school to have one person ultimately responsible for these non-teaching aspects. “It enables the teachers to get on with teaching and focus on the students. The Head Master’s role is student facing, whereas mine isn’t, so it means all aspects of school life are properly cared for.”
One of the great joys of her role, says Mrs Bremner Gadotti, is working in a not-for-profit environment. “As a steward of the finances, it is wonderful to work in a place where you know all the resources are being reinvested in the environment in which we are working. It’s not about anyone’s pension, retirement plan or shareholders. It’s about the students.
Fees for Swiss boarding schools are higher than those elsewhere, but that’s merely a reflection of the higher costs of the system in which the school operates, she points out. And, she says, the not-for-profit ethos helps to focus her mind when she’s allocating resources. “You make sure that you are prioritising the areas which need them. I think it’s reassuring to the parents to know the fees they pay are going into providing the education for their child. It’s a wholesome approach to education.”
These fees cover the essentials of Aiglon life, but Mrs Bremner Gadotti says donations and fundraising enable “the icing on the cake. We’ve got a very generous parent and alumni body who have enabled some great projects to be achieved, and the fundraising team do a fantastic job.”
Donations and fundraising bring an increased depth to student activities. The Sports Centre was almost entirely funded through donations, says Mrs Bremner Gadotti, and fundraising for the Assembly and Arts Building has begun.
The bursar also provides a vital link between different school advisory groups. Mrs Bremner Gadotti is clerk to the Board and is also a member of the School Council. This is a non-hierarchical body with representation from all sides of the school, which meets regularly to look at both day-to-day operational issues and to discuss the bigger picture.
“Working alongside the Board, we look at the future size and shape of the school, share our knowledge, wisdom and experience, and look at how we can move Aiglon forward together,” says Patricia. “It’s a whole team effort.”
This article originally appeared in Issue 9 of the Aiglon Magazine.
Words by Lucy Jolin. Photography by Joe McGorty.