January 17, 2008

The University of Teesside's Janice Webster has been named one of the UK's most enterprising academics. The accolade was awarded by UPBEAT, a project funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which looked at 150 case studies of universities' engagement with business and the community. The award recognises her work in establishing the university's DigitalCity project, which aims to make Teesside a major centre for digital technology. Dr Webster, a graduate of Teesside's 3D design and gaming degree, set up her own firm before returning to the university. She became director of the virtual reality centre in 1997 and was made founding director of DigitalCity in 2002. "Winning this award feels like I have got the truffles after all the digging," she said.

A former languages teacher who went on to command an education budget of £300 million has been appointed Staffordshire University's executive pro vice-chancellor. Gill Howland joins from the Learning and Skills Council in Birmingham and Solihull, where she was responsible for a huge budget as executive director. She said: "The Government is looking at universities to make a real difference in economic competitiveness, so it's an exciting time in higher education."

Steven West is the new vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England. Professor West, who is currently acting vice-chancellor, will take over from Sir Howard Newby, who left the institution after just months at the helm to take up the top job at the University of Liverpool. Professor West said: "Strong partnerships with the region's employers and community have enhanced our excellence in learning and teaching, research and knowledge exchange, and extending educational opportunities. UWE Bristol is responding to the new higher education landscape by being innovative and adaptable." At 46, Professor West will be one of the youngest vice-chancellors in the UK. He joined UWE in 1995 as dean of the faculty of health and social care from the University of Huddersfield. He became a deputy vice-chancellor early in 2007 and took over as acting vice-chancellor in September. His leisure interests include scuba diving, which came in useful recently when he was persuaded to appear in his full diving gear during the student union's rag week fundraising activities.

Two University of Huddersfield academics have formed a new political forum to debate the concept of Britishness. Jim McAuley, professor of political sociology, and Andrew Mycock, senior politics lecturer, have established the new Political Studies Association Specialist Group on Britishness.

A biologist from Staffordshire University has won Pounds 30,000 funding for a series of lectures on the history of malaria. Angela Priestman will present three lectures on the late 19th-century malaria research of poet-scientist Ronald Ross alongside discussion of today's efforts to combat the disease. Ross, who proved in 1897 that mosquitoes were responsible for spreading malaria, thought that the breakthrough would lead to the end of the disease. Funding for the lectures is being provided by the Wellcome Trust.

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Len Shackleton has been appointed head of the University of East London's Business School. The economist is currently dean of the Westminster Business School. Professor Shackleton said he wanted to position the business school as "one of London's most exciting and innovative". Professor Shackleton's teaching interests include macroeconomics and labour economics, and his research interests cover all aspects of labour markets. He will take up the post in early February.

The new principal of St George's, University of London is Peter Kopelman, who is currently dean of the faculty of health at the University of East Anglia. Professor Kopelman already has strong ties with St George's: he qualified as a doctor at the institution and did his early training years at St George's Hospital. "St George's is a marvellous institution with a strong historical tradition. It is a true privilege for me to lead it as it enters a particularly important time in its history," he said. He will take up the post on 31 March following the departure of Michael Farthing, who becomes vice-chancellor of Sussex University.

Neurologist and stroke specialist Alastair Buchan will head the medical sciences division at the University of Oxford from October. Professor Buchan, professor of clinical geratology at the university, is both a clinician who treats stroke patients and a neuroscience researcher. He hopes to discover stroke interventions that protect the brain and stimulate recovery.

Wave Crookes has joined the University of Hull as the new diving instructor for the Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences at the Scarborough campus. Colleagues have commented on the appropriateness of his name.

The founder of a science communication business spun out of Cardiff University has been recognised for her passion for promoting acoustics to school students through music. Wendy Sadler, director of Science made Simple, has been awarded the Institute of Acoustics' Award for Promoting Acoustics to the Public. The business was developed by Cardiff's School of Physics and Astronomy, where it is still based.

The University of Nottingham has appointed new professors, 20 readers and 38 associate professors in its latest round of staff promotions. Among the new professors are: Mercedes Maroto-Valer, promoted to professor of energy technologies; Philip Goodchild, head of the department of theology and religious studies, who becomes professor of religion and philosophy; and Robert Mokaya, who becomes professor of materials chemistry. Marion Walker of the School of Community Health Sciences has been appointed professor in stroke rehabilitation. Sanja Petrovic is appointed professor of computer science.

Stephen Stradling, professor of transport psychology at Napier University, has been appointed chair of the Transform Scotland Trust. He was recently appointed to an expert panel advising on a road safety strategy for Scotland for the next ten years.

Edinburgh College of Art has made a number of recent appointments. Alan Murray has been appointed head of the School of Design; he joins from the Technical University, Eindhoven. Dorothy Hogg, head of jewellery and silversmithing, has retired, and the post is to be filled by Stephen Bottomley.

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