Durham University – the third oldest higher education institution in England – has chosen an eminent scientist as its new Vice-Chancellor.
Professor Chris Higgins, Director of the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre and Head of Division in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London will succeed former Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, who retires in 2007, Durham’s 175th Anniversary year. He brings to Durham a top quality research record in molecular biology and genetics, a passion for the communication and public understanding of science, experience in national policy-making and planning for science and also in entrepreneurial activities and business ventures arising from scientific research. The appointment also signals a return to Durham for Professor Higgins who graduated as a student of Grey College with a first class degree in Botany in 1976 and a PhD in 1979.
Professor Higgins (51) studied at the Royal College of Music before becoming a botanist. He subsequently developed interests in genetics and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Dundee. In 1993, he was appointed Nuffield Professor of Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, and moved to his present post with the Medical Research Council at Imperial in 1998.
Professor Higgins said:
“Durham is a world-class University and I am very much looking forward to working with staff and students to ensure that it continues to go from strength to strength and meets the challenges posed by an ever-changing sector. I believe my appointment as Vice-Chancellor reaffirms Durham’s long-term commitment to excellence in research and teaching and hope to be able to share my experience and ideas to further raise Durham’s impact and profile on academic and policy issues in the North-East, in the UK and around the world. I am also looking forward to taking up this post in Durham’s 175th Anniversary year and reacquainting myself with Durham – a place which holds so many wonderful memories.”
Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, who has already been elected Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, looks forward to welcoming his successor to the University. He said:
“In recruiting Professor Higgins I believe that Durham has demonstrated its commitment to further strengthening its standing as one of the UK’s leading research-led Universities and the North-East’s top academic institution.“
News of the appointment was also welcomed by staff, stakeholders and students. Durham’s Student Union President, Alex Duncan is delighted with the choice:
“Chris will preserve and strengthen everything which makes Durham so unique and special. Recognised by the Sunday Times as its current ‘University of the Year’, Durham offers an unparalleled academic and pastoral experience. Having been an undergraduate and postgraduate student here Chris understands and is a shining example of this.”
Mrs Anne Galbraith, Vice-Chairman of the University’s Council, who chaired the appointing panel, said the University had made a first-class appointment:
“Professor Higgins clearly has the right experience, research profile and leadership qualities. He is the man to take forward and build on the excellent work of Sir Kenneth Calman. He will ensure that Durham continues to be recognised as one of the UK’s finest universities, that it is geared up to make a substantial contribution to the development of the UK’s knowledge economy, and remains a supportive learning environment."