Former higher education tsar takes over as new chairman of the Arts and Humanities Research Council

December 21, 2007

The Government's former director-general for higher education has been made chairman of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Sir Alan Wilson, professor of urban and regional systems at University College London, said he was "honoured" by the appointment.

"I see two kinds of strategic priorities," Sir Alan said. "First, to help sustain a world-class core of research, particularly seeing a growth in interdisciplinary projects; and, second, to ensure that there is effective interaction with a very wide user community.

"Arts and humanities research is one of the foundations of the creative and cultural industries, and they in turn are major players in the UK economy and underpin much of our quality of life," he said.

The appointment follows a two-year stint as the Government's higher education tsar, from 2004 to 2006, and seven months as principal of his alma mater, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, which he left this year.

Sir Alan graduated in mathematics in 1960 and worked at the Rutherford Laboratory at Harwell. Four years later he joined Oxford University's Institute of Economics and Statistics before working for the Ministry of Transport's mathematical advisory unit.

In the 1970s and 1980s he was professor of urban and regional geography at Leeds University, and was made vice-chancellor in 1991. During his tenure he expanded student numbers and increased turnover and research income.

Sir Alan was knighted in 2001 and in 2004 was awarded the Laureat d'Honneur by the International Geographical Union and the prize in regional science by the European Regional Science Association. He is a fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society.

The appointment is for four years.

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