'People asked "is it a joyful occasion?"it is - but it is more a sense of relief'

July 29, 2005

Tim Wheeler is vice-chancellor of the latest college to be awarded university status - Chester

Tim Wheeler allowed himself a glass of bubbly this week to celebrate the news that the college he has run for the past seven years has been granted university status.

But there is little danger that Professor Wheeler, now vice-chancellor of Chester University, will let the taste of success to go to his head.

He pointed out that the former University College Chester enjoyed a 48 per cent increase in applications this year - the largest in the UK. Yet he insisted he would maintain a "steady-as-she-goes" policy with his university - which also happens to be one of England's oldest institutions.

Its original buildings were opened by Sir William Gladstone in 1842.

He said: "We are going to be fairly conservative in terms of expansion.

It's not about growth - it's about sustaining the numbers we have and enhancing quality."

Professor Wheeler's caution may be influenced by his experience in the late 1990s as deputy director and later acting director of Southampton Institute, which became Southampton Solent University two weeks ago.

Professor Wheeler recalled: "It was a period fraught with problems. The institute had gone through rapid expansion and had a high appetite for risk."

Chester's main challenge will be coping with a possible dip in student demand as top-up fees come in, he said.

As for this week's good news, Professor Wheeler said it was due to his hard-working staff and students. "People have asked me, 'is it a joyful occasion?' It is - but it is more a great sense of relief," he said.

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