Coventry dean drives links with industry

Michael Fitzpatrick, who joins the Faculty of Engineering, aims to reinforce connections with manufacturing. Plus the latest higher education jobs and appointments

April 24, 2014

When Michael Fitzpatrick was offered the position of executive dean for Coventry University’s Faculty of Engineering and Computing, he said his immediate thought was: “I’m taking this job.”

“Which is not what I expected,” he said. “But having gone through the process, having found out a lot more about Coventry than I had previously known, it was a case of I don’t need to go away and think about this one, I’m going to say yes.”

Professor Fitzpatrick, currently the Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust chair in materials fabrication and engineering and head of the department of engineering and innovation at The Open University, added that Coventry was “clearly on a trajectory that I wanted to be part of”, which made the decision even more of a no-brainer.

Although he has been at The Open University for 19 years – “I certainly wasn’t running around looking to get out” – he thought the Coventry role, which he starts on 1 May, looked “worth exploring”.

Professor Fitzpatrick’s appointment was made a short time after the announcement of the university’s new engineering and manufacturing institute, established jointly with multinational logistics, supply chain and manufacturing company Unipart, which will offer students first-hand industry experience as well as a major collaborative research and development programme.

“The Unipart collaboration is absolutely unique,” he said. “It’s going to change the way we think about universities and industry working together, and I think other universities will want to copy it.”

He added that there were few engineering departments not working with industry, but that it all came down to the “degree of engagement” that would distinguish forward-thinking institutions.

Something he is keen to further at Coventry is the university’s proactive stance in this area. Some universities’ industry links, he said, amounted to “lip service” or “maybe having an industrial advisory board that meets once a year”.

Professor Fitzpatrick said that historically, the sector’s links with industry had been “very much on the universities’ terms – we’ve got this expertise and you can buy it from us – rather than playing it the other way”. Instead, Coventry was trying to say: “What can the university do for you by tackling your problems the way that you want to see them tackled?”

He said a key facet of the Unipart initiative was that the new building was on Unipart’s site in Coventry, and would reinforce the university’s connections to industry with manufacturing students and researchers working there.

“We will put the university on the factory floor; we won’t just bring the people from industry on to the university campus a few times a year,” he said.

“That’s something that’s very close to my heart because, as an engineer who’s spent their career working for universities, the link to industry is critical both in terms of the quality and relevance of what we deliver to students and in terms of the quality and impact of research.”

Leading roles: positions available

University of Liverpool
Russell Group member the University of Liverpool is inviting applications for the post of vice-chancellor.
Closing date for applications: 8 May 2014
View the full job description and apply for this role

Coventry University
Coventry University is looking to fill the role of professor of manufacturing systems and processes in the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering.
Closing date for applications: 4 May 2014
View the full job description and apply for this role

University of Sheffield
The University of Sheffield is seeking to appoint the Culham professor of materials technology, based in Sheffield and Oxfordshire.
Closing date for applications: 1 May 2014
View the full job description and apply for this role


The University of Sheffield’s Management School has announced the appointment of David Oglethorpe as dean. Professor Oglethorpe, who was appointed in March, previously worked at Northumbria University and the University of Edinburgh.

Stuart Cross, senior lecturer in the University of Dundee’s School of Law, has been appointed as a member of the board of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. The appointment, which began on 1 April, is for four years.

SETsquared, an enterprise collaboration between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, has made Simon Bond its new head. Mr Bond, currently director of SETsquared’s innovation centre at Bath, will become the innovation director.

Graeme Reid has joined the National Centre for Universities and Business as strategic adviser. He has also been appointed professor of science and research policy at University College London.

Bob Athwal is to take up a new role at the University of Leicester. Mr Athwal, who was previously director of Leicester’s career development service, is to become director of student experience.

Queen Margaret University has appointed Brendan McCormack as head of the division of nursing and research professor. He joins from the University of Ulster, where he was director of the Institute of Nursing and Health Research.

Aberystwyth University has appointed Michael Woods, professor of human geography and director of the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, to the newly created post of professor of transformative social science.

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