Bristol v-c faced no opposition in bid to become UUK president

November 18, 2010

The next president of Universities UK has been appointed amid dissatisfaction among some vice-chancellors at the organisation's handling of the battle over cuts.

It was announced this week that Eric Thomas, vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol, will take over from Steve Smith on 1 August next year. He will hold the post for the academic years 2011-12 and 2012-13.

UUK said Professor Thomas' appointment was unopposed. Professor Smith faced an election before becoming president as two vice-chancellors from post-1992 institutions - Les Ebdon and John Craven - also ran.

Times Higher Education understands that the absence of an election this time was partly due to a "lack of enthusiasm" following UUK's handling of recent events.

One vice-chancellor, who did not want to be named, said the organisation should have done more to oppose the proposed cuts to the teaching grant outlined in the Browne Review.

The installation of a vice-chancellor from a member of the Russell Group, which represents the research-intensive universities that are arguably set to gain the most from the new regime, is unlikely to end the antipathy towards UUK from some university heads.

However, Professor Thomas is highly regarded, and it is not the first time an appointment has been unopposed - Rick Trainor, principal of King's College London, did not face an election when he became president in 2007.

Professor Thomas has been vice-chancellor of Bristol since September 2001. The former consultant gynaecologist said it would be a "great honour" to represent the umbrella group during such a crucial time.

"The sector faces challenge and opportunity in equal measure, and UUK will ensure that higher education's voice is heard and its strategic value recognised," he said.

He is also chair of the board at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education Europe and previously chaired a government task force into how to increase voluntary donations to universities.

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