In the news: Alan Gilbert

July 25, 2003

Alan Gilbert was this week named the first vice-chancellor of the merged University of Manchester and University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

Professor Gilbert is the commercially minded vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne. He recently unveiled plans for it to become the first Australian university to charge some home undergraduates full-cost tuition fees.

His other initiatives included establishing a private company to run professional courses. He oversaw the creation of Universitas 21 and was its founding chairman. The organisation now has 17 members in ten countries including the UK, the US and China. Its online arm, Universitas 21 Global, is a partnership with private providers Thomson Learning, and its chairman is Professor Gilbert. But the creation of U21 Global was not entirely trouble-free - the University of Toronto quit the consortium in May 2001.

Likewise, Melbourne University Private - envisaged when it was established in 1998 as a company of professional schools recruiting corporate students - has also run into difficulties recently. The Australian government warned that the company must develop a research profile or stop calling itself a university.

Professor Gilbert should blend in with other Russell Group vice-chancellors. He is chair of the Australian equivalent - the "Group of 8". He also served as a member of the Australian Higher Education Council, Hong Kong's Higher Education Council and Australia's Premier's Industry Round Table. He has had experience of mergers. From 1991 to 1995, he was vice-chancellor of the University of Tasmania and oversaw its amalgamation with the Tasmanian State Institute of Technology.

Professor Gilbert, 58, is a modern historian who did his PhD at the University of Oxford. He is married and has two daughters. He is due to take up his post in February 2004.

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