Birley leaves natural heritage for Edinburgh hot seat

December 1, 1995

Tim Birley, former head of the Scottish Office rural affairs and natural heritage division, has been appointed director of Edinburgh University's centre for human ecology which has won a reprieve from closure for the current academic session.

Following vigorous lobbying, the university court rejected a management proposal to axe the CHE in September, and will discuss its future next month.

But there were fears that it was under threat following the retirement of its director, Ulrich Loening, on October 30.

Dr Loening, who will continue teaching as emeritus director, said: "We warmly welcome Tim Birley's appointment. We deeply appreciate that the senior management of the university have granted such a constructive outcome. It marks a significant stage in taking forward discussion about the role of the centre for human ecology."

Mr Birley, who has been appointed director for the current academic session, has been linked with the centre for 20 years. He was a founding member of its executive group when he was an Edinburgh lecturer in urban design and regional planning in the 1970s.

He undertakes research and consultancy on a wide range of topics relating to sustainable development and public policy, and the CHE's teaching director, Alastair McIntosh, said his appointment would be of tremendous benefit to the centre's interest in Highland and Island land use issues.

"He brings an informed and balanced perspective, respected by a broad spectrum of Scottish opinion," Mr McIntosh said.

The CHE encourages research into environmental issues across traditional subject boundaries, but ironically, it is this approach which has led to its current difficulties, since at a time of budget cuts, no subject would earmark it as a priority. Edinburgh is conducting a 12-month review of how best to carry forward its expanding programme of environmental teaching, research and institutional strategy.

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