April 22, 2010

University of Glasgow

Roibeard O Maolalaigh

An academic who has dedicated his life to the history and culture of the Gaelic language has been appointed the inaugural chair of Gaelic at the University of Glasgow. Roibeard O Maolalaigh, who is head of the university's department of Celtic and Gaelic, was born in Dublin and began his career in Ireland, branching out to study both Irish and Scottish Gaelic. "I was interested in the history of the Gaelic language. I realised I needed to understand what was going on in Scotland and I went there in 1988," he said. Professor O Maolalaigh likened the distinction between the two tongues to that between Spanish and Portuguese. "From the 17th and 18th centuries, people have seen them as separate languages, but the differences are as much socio-political as they are linguistic," he explained. Although he already held a personal chair in the subject at Glasgow, the creation of a permanent chair cements the position of the discipline within the university. "For me it's an investment in the future. Had I retired, that would have been the end of it, so this is recognition of the importance of Gaelic in Scotland. I suppose it's a pledge for its future in teaching and research," Professor O Maolalaigh said. During his time as head of department, he has been responsible for the creation of the Gaelic language-officer post, the first of its kind in Scotland. His work at the university includes academic study into the history of the language, plus practical projects with Gaelic-speaking communities. He is also involved in the £5 million Soillse project, involving the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands, which is developing research capacity for the maintenance and revitalisation of Scottish Gaelic.

University of Manchester

Keith Brown

A historian who has spent his entire career in Scotland is moving south of the border to lead the University of Manchester's Faculty of Humanities. Keith Brown, currently deputy principal at the University of St Andrews, is to take up the post of dean of humanities and vice-president at Manchester in September. "It's a big change in terms of the environment - rural to urban - and from a very old university to a one that, at least in its current form, is relatively new," he said. "The scale is hugely different. My faculty will be bigger than the whole of the University of St Andrews." After studying at the universities of Glasgow and St Andrews, Professor Brown began his career as a lecturer at the University of Stirling. He then moved back to St Andrews in 1995, rising to become head of the department of history, then vice-principal for teaching and learning, and finally deputy principal. Humanities is the largest of the four faculties at Manchester, with 934 academic staff and 16,377 students, and the institution has big international plans. "Manchester has an ambitious aim to be one of the world's top 25 universities by 2015. That's a challenge in the current funding climate. The role will be to make sure that the humanities play a leading part in that," Professor Brown said. "I'm bringing a lot of experience to the job, and I'm going to need it."

University of Sheffield

Terry Lamb

One of France's greatest academic accolades, the Chevalier dans L'Ordre des Palmes Academiques, has been awarded to Terry Lamb, a lecturer in the University of Sheffield's School of Education. He was presented with the medal by the French ambassador to the UK, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne. Originally created by Napoleon in 1808, the accolade rewards educationalists for their contribution to the expansion of French language and culture. Dr Lamb was recognised for his services to language teaching in the UK and France, and his part in establishing a joint Anglo-French qualification, the Diploma-Baccalaureat. It will be available from 2011 for post-16 learners as an alternative to A levels. Dr Lamb said this underlined "the importance of not only French but also language learning generally. It shows a desire for our countries to work more closely together."

Royal Holloway, University of London

David Simon

An academic has described the rewarding experience of using his expertise to make a difference. David Simon, head of the department of geography at Royal Holloway, University of London, was invited to take part in the fifth United Nations World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro. This marked the culmination of his role as an adviser to UN-Habitat, the specialist agency dealing with human settlements, cities and climate change. He said that "playing a leading role in fostering such developments was both exciting and fulfilling". Professor Simon said that the mix of participants, including academics, meant that debates at the event were a "refreshing departure" from usual UN fare. "Government ministers and international agency leaders espousing familiar positions were challenged directly by experienced grassroots activists and informed critics," he explained. Professor Simon was chair and moderator of one session of the forum, and contributed to two other sessions.

Other changes

An academic at Queen Mary, University of London, has been made a law commissioner by Jack Straw, the justice secretary. David Ormerod, professor of criminal justice in the School of Law, will succeed Jeremy Horder as one of a body of five commissioners from 1 September.

A British chemist has been appointed chair of the American Chemical Society's Division of Organic Chemistry for 2010. P. Andrew Evans, professor of organic chemistry at the University of Liverpool, is the first chair to have been appointed from outside North America since the division's inception in 1908. The society has a membership of more than 18,000 chemists worldwide.

John Butt, an expert on Johann Sebastian Bach based at the University of Glasgow, has been awarded the Royal Academy of Music/Kohn Foundation Bach Prize for his contribution to the study and performance of the German composer's work. He is the fifth winner of the £10,000 award.

A technician at Lancaster University has received a Hauksbee Award from the Royal Society in recognition of his work in supporting scientific research. Ian Miller, who is based in the department of physics, is a leading low-temperature technician and an expert in microkelvin technology.

Mark Damazer, controller of BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 7, is to leave broadcasting to take up the headship of St Peter's College, Oxford in October.

Karim Aldohni, lecturer in law at Newcastle University, and Sandra Einig, senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University's Business School, have been appointed the first Henry Grunfeld Fund visiting research fellows at the ifs School of Finance, the private not-for-profit institution that was granted taught degree-awarding powers in January.

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