Royal Holloway proves its head for research as v-c goes to Hefce

June 12, 2008

There may be something in the water at Royal Holloway, University of London. The same institution that provided the Higher Education Funding Council for England with its last research policy chief is to provide its next.

Hefce has confirmed that David Sweeney, the vice-principal for communications, enterprise and research at Royal Holloway, is to take up the post of director for research, innovation and skills at the council from 1 September.

He will replace Rama Thirunamachandran, who was head of research and enterprise at Royal Holloway until he took the Hefce post in 2002. Dr Thirunamachandran left to take up the post of deputy vice-chancellor at Keele University.

"I think we (at Royal Holloway) have a powerful drive to carry out good research," Mr Sweeney told Times Higher Education in his first interview since his Hefce appointment. Ed Hughes, manager of the current research assessment exercise for Hefce, also cut his teeth at the university, he added.

The appointment comes not a moment too soon for Hefce, which lost Dr Thirunamachandran on 30 May. The announcement of his departure sparked fears of a possible policy vacuum at the council, particularly with work to be done on developing the research excellence framework, which will replace the RAE.

Until Mr Sweeney begins, the responsibilities of the job are split among Hefce's management team.

Mr Sweeney said he was both pleased and excited about his appointment. "We are all looking forward to working out what the REF means for reputation and funding. The sector has responded to the consultation in a way that has allowed us to modify the initial proposals. I look forward to working with colleagues to turn them into something that commands the same confidence as the RAE does."

Mr Sweeney's background is in statistics and he is known for his leadership in the IT field. He has been at Royal Holloway since 2004 and at the university since 1991.

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