Tim O'Shea, master of London's Birkbeck College, will be back on an old stamping ground when he becomes principal of the University of Edinburgh in October, succeeding Lord Sutherland.
Professor O'Shea, who celebrated his 53rd birthday yesterday, was a research fellow in Edinburgh's department of artificial intelligence from 1974 to 1978. He spent his postdoc years there after graduating in mathematics and experimental psychology from the University of Sussex and then taking a PhD in computer science at the University of Leeds. His former department gained a 5* grade in the latest research assessment exercise, with the highest proportion - more than 95 per cent - of its staff submitted.
Professor O'Shea wants to strengthen Edinburgh's research reputation still further. His own research projects include work on portable computing in education and the use of very large electronic whiteboards in group decision-making. After leaving Edinburgh for the first time, Professor O'Shea established the computer-assisted learning research group at the Open University. He rose through the ranks to become pro vice-chancellor for quality assurance and research.
He became master of Birkbeck College in 1997 and provost of Gresham College, London, in 2000.
He is a member of the Higher Education Funding Council for England's standing committee on equal opportunities, access and lifelong learning.
Leaving Birkbeck would be a wrench, he said, but he believes post-devolution Scotland is a happier place than England. "I think Scotland has been more enlightened in terms of its support for students, and my perception is that Scottish politicians are more enlightened in terms of their attitude to lifelong learning and the knowledge economy. Having ministers who are closer to the action and more accessible is very encouraging."