Howard Newby's election as president of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and
Principals last year brought widespread expectations of change.
Described as a "visionary" and "thinker", he has long warned that universities must be ready to meet the challenge of
globalisation. And a few months ago, saying that "institutions may increasingly have to choose their niche", he called for a radical adjustment of the structure and function of universities.
Three years spent at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison as professor of sociology and rural sociology between 1980 and 1983 has given him a keen interest in a tiered higher education system, with
open-access community colleges, taughtdegree-only universities and internationally competitive research universities.
If radical change does happen, he is well placed to present it. He is used to the media spotlight. In 1997, as vice-chancellor of Southampton, he faced the difficult task of responding to six cases of meningitis at his university, including three deaths.
The same year, he completed a report for the government on St Austell College's
handling of an investigation into allegations of sexual assault by a lecturer.
Professor Newby was educated at grammar school in Derbyshire and at Atlantic College and St Donat's, Glamorgan. He took a degree and PhD at the University of Essex, where, between 1972 and 1988, he continued his career, rising from lecturer in sociology to professor.
He went from heading the Economic and Social Research Council to become vicechancellor of Southampton six years ago, with a brief to expand its research profile and establish it as a global player.
He is married with two sons, a dedicated fan of Derby County football club and a railway enthusiast.