Nick Petford is to take over as vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton when Ann Tate retires after eight years in charge. Professor Petford, pro vice-chancellor for research and enterprise at Bournemouth University, began his academic life as a widening-participation student, and said that improving access to higher education would be a priority in his new role. Emphasising his commitment to improving equality of opportunity, he said that others sometimes "pay lip service to widening participation because there's funding attached". Echoing recent calls by Lord Mandelson for a departure from traditional three-year honours degrees taken straight after school, Professor Petford said that he wanted to increase the "diversity of provision of education", including two-year degrees. He also outlined plans to build on Northampton's research strengths and invest in its pockets of excellence, identified in the research assessment exercise 2008. However, he warned that "as a sector, the future looks bleak to very bleak", adding that funding cuts would mean that Northampton may also have to look at areas that could be trimmed. Although he acknowledged that this would cause consternation, he said that the university "can't be all things to all people". Professor Petford has been known to opt for rather unusual tactics when starting new posts in the past: he used a combination of Coca-Cola and Mentos sweets to explain how volcanoes work during his inaugural lecture at Bournemouth. But he said that he had no plans to revisit this at Northampton. "I have showered myself in Coke and yoghurt for various demonstrations - but that is perhaps a bit unbecoming of a vice-chancellor," he said.
The University of Westminster has appointed a former journalist co-director of its new India Media Centre, which has been set up to complement existing centres for the study of Chinese, African and Arab media. Daya Thussu, who worked as a journalist in India for a decade, said that the time was right to focus on what was already one of the world's fastest-growing economies. He added that "there has been a huge change in media in India" in recent years. "While other countries are seeing the closure of newspapers and magazines, the publishing industry in India is experiencing a massive boom," he said. Professor Thussu started out as a journalist while studying for a PhD in international relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He said he had drawn on his experiences of the profession during his academic career. "It has given me knowledge of the real world," he explained. "When I write papers or books, I aim to talk to people in the real world in language they can understand." The centre will focus on Indian media in a global context and will be co-led by Rosie Thomas, reader in art and media practice.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has appointed a family-friendly director and chief executive at the John Innes Centre. Dale Sanders joins the centre, which provides a national focus for plant and microbial science, from the department of biology at the University of York. As head of the department, he took steps to make life easier for staff seeking a better work-life balance - particularly junior academics who were often at "critical stages of their careers when they also have young children". He has said that his experience of having to raise a young family alone during his early career had given him personal insight into how difficult such a juggling act can be. Professor Sanders joined York as a lecturer in 1983 after completing a PhD at the University of Cambridge and a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University. He is an expert in the way that chemical elements are transported across cell membranes in plants and in the basic science of specialised plant transport mechanisms. He takes over from Michael Bevan, who has led the centre since the death of director Chris Lamb in August 2009.
Queen's University Belfast
An annual lecture series intended to stimulate young people's interest in physiology is to be given by Graham McGeown, an academic at Queen's University Belfast. Professor McGeown, from the Centre for Vision and Vascular Sciences, has been appointed the Physiological Society's G.L. Brown Prize lecturer for 2010. The peripatetic lecture series was established in 1975 in honour of Sir George Lindor Brown (1903-71), professor of physiology at the University of Oxford and secretary of the Royal Society. Professor McGeown is an alumnus of Queen's who returned to the university to study for a PhD after two years working for the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. Following his doctorate, he joined the institution as a lecturer and has risen through the ranks, becoming Dunville professor of physiology in 2007. He will deliver his lecture, "Seeing is believing: imaging Ca2+-signalling events in living cells", at eight Russell Group universities over the next two months.
Other changes ...
David Arnold, former dean of the faculty of management and information services at the University of Brighton, has been made the institution's first director of research initiatives and appointed dean of graduate students.
Gordon Hudson has been appointed enterprise chair in sustainability at Northumbria University. Mr Hudson will split his time between the role and his current job as a sustainable development expert at management and engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald.
Phil Willis MP, chair of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, has been awarded a youth-focused accreditation for his work with interns. He has been recognised as an "internship pioneer" by youth organisation Internocracy.
Samir Okasha, professor of the philosophy of science at the University of Bristol, has been honoured by the London School of Economics for his book Evolution and the Levels of Selection (2006). The LSE's Lakatos Award recognises key contributions to the philosophy of science.
The University of Warwick has named Mark Taylor, professor of international finance and macroeconomics at the university, as dean of Warwick Business School.
David Hunter, chief executive of the Sector Skills Council Lifelong Learning UK, is to step down due to ill health. Sue Dutton has been appointed interim chief executive.