Council for Assisting Refugee Academics
The Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (Cara) has named the former British ambassador to Serbia as its executive director. Stephen Wordsworth takes over from John Akker, who retires on 30 April after 13 years in the role. Mr Wordsworth gained an MA in modern languages from the University of Cambridge before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Eastern European and Soviet department. He has held numerous diplomatic positions during his career and served in the former Soviet Union, the former German Democratic Republic and Nigeria. "There's a degree of continuity with what I've done before - I have had quite a lot of roles [involving] regimes which are not very friendly to academic freedom, back in the early stages of my career and indeed latterly in Eastern Europe as it used to be," he said. "There are still many regimes around the world [that] see academic freedom as a threat and so try to put pressure on [academics]." Mr Wordsworth equates academic restrictions to press censorship. A free academy and a free press are "seen by extremist groups and oppressive regimes as a threat to them, so just as journalists are beaten up and in some cases killed, so are academics. It's about bringing attention to that."
The first chair in law and professional ethics at University College London has admitted: "If you'd have told me at 17 I'd be a law professor, I'd have been sure you meant that was what my band [was] called." Richard Moorhead, currently professor of law at Cardiff University, added: "I actually fell into research by accident as a student research assistant, but quickly fell in love with it. I did train as a solicitor...but I loved writing and talking more, so here I am." Professor Moorhead aims to "develop the interdisciplinary and empirical side of legal ethics research" at UCL. "Interdisciplinary insights need carrying back into the education of law students and practising lawyers," he said. He added that the media had given a misleading impression of the extent of ethical abuses, but argued that "marketisation, social immobility and income inequality have shifted people's values...towards a less ethical approach. The...question is whether, post-crash, institutions regain a stronger sense of right and wrong or will just hitch themselves back to market values...when the economy picks up." Professor Moorhead, who has held positions at the universities of Warwick and Liverpool and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, gained a law degree at the University of Warwick but did not take a PhD, which he jokes is "heresy" in today's academy. He will take up the UCL post in September.
King's College London
A member of the British Olympic team will take up a position at King's College London after London 2012. Andy Allford, team leader for the British badminton team, will become head of sports and active lifestyles in the department of student experience support. "One of the big things that attracted me back to the higher education sector is the fact that the remit for sport can be quite wide," he said. "However, rather than trying to be all things to all people, we need to establish our key aims" -including answering the question of whether performance sport or the health of students and staff is the most important aspect. After completing a sport and exercise degree at the University of Brighton, Mr Allford became head of health, fitness and performance at the University of Hertfordshire before joining the English Institute of Sport as Olympic team leader and senior strength and conditioning coach. He said there were misconceptions about sports studies in the UK, mainly because high-profile jobs in the field were hard to come by. "Jobs in high-performance sport are few and far between," Mr Allford said. "However, there is more opportunity now...to work in sport but at slightly lower levels."
The newly appointed head of the School of Computing and Information Systems at Kingston University believes computer science departments should play a more active role in improving graduate employability by tailoring courses to the demands of the job market. "Creating courses that meet the requirements of employers and focusing on the industry context is crucial if students are to secure better jobs upon graduation," Vesna Brujic-Okretic said. "Universities need to increase links between their staff expertise in research and industry with their programmes. By getting students directly involved in the professional world...they can provide a quantum leap in transforming graduates into desirable employees." Professor Brujic-Okretic took up her position earlier this month, joining Kingston from City University London, where she was head of the department of information science. She obtained her MSc and PhD at the University of Belgrade before undertaking research at the University of Cambridge. Before moving to City, she spent 11 years at the University of Surrey developing her expertise in robotics, mechatronics and augmented reality.
The Nuffield Foundation has appointed Sharon Witherspoon as its director. Ms Witherspoon is currently deputy director of the foundation, a position she has held for the past 12 years. She was previously a senior researcher at the Policy Studies Institute and the National Centre for Social Research (formerly Social and Community Planning Research). Ms Witherspoon will take up the position upon the retirement of incumbent director Anthony Tomei this summer.
The University of Leicester has appointed two members of staff as a number of its existing faculty have been honoured in their respective fields. Booker prizewinning author Ben Okri has taken up a position as visiting professor in the School of English, while Terri Eynon has joined as a clinical translation fellow in the department of health sciences. Meanwhile, Reiko Heckel, professor of software engineering, has been made president of the European Association of Software Science and Technology, and Mark Harrison, honorary visiting fellow in the department of geography, has been named managing director of the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project.
Susan Scholefield, who has held numerous positions in the Civil Service during her career, has been appointed secretary of the London School of Economics. Ms Scholefield, who graduated from the University of Oxford, joins the LSE from the Ministry of Defence, where she was director general of human resources and corporate services.
An academic from Queen Mary, University of London has won a prestigious computer science award. Dino Distefano, lecturer in software verification at the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, has won the £5,000 Roger Needham Award from BCS - the Chartered Institute for IT.