Scottish impact

Demonstrating the university's value to Scotland will be Gerry McCormac's goal in his new role of principal at Stirling

November 26, 2009

He cut his teeth as a researcher in Northern Ireland and England before developing his career in the US. Now Gerry McCormac is to take the helm of a Scottish university.

The incoming principal of the University of Stirling said that, in line with government priorities, one of his main goals was to demonstrate the value of the university to Scotland - or, to use the current watchword, its "impact" on the prosperity of the country.

"For me, a key component in becoming principal will be to demonstrate the worth of the institution to the Scottish economy," he said. "It is incumbent upon us. Universities are about more than economic impact ... but my first priority will be to ensure that we communicate effectively the contribution that Stirling makes to Scotland and the UK." Currently pro vice-chancellor for community and communications at Queen's University Belfast, Professor McCormac will take up his new role next year.

He said he already "felt at home" in Scotland. "Northern Ireland and Scotland are kindred spirits. I have worked closely with colleagues in Scottish universities and my family has Scottish roots."

The new role, he said, was an opportunity to play a part in "securing Scotland's future as a self-confident and successful economy", which recognises that it is still important to invest in higher education.

Professor McCormac graduated with a PhD in space physics in 1984, carrying out research at both Ulster Polytechnic (now the University of Ulster) and the University of Southampton.

After a stint as a junior researcher, he took a post as a research scientist at the Space Physics Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan in the US. In 1990, he moved back to Northern Ireland, as director of the radiocarbon research facility at Queen's. Subsequently, he was made head of archaeology at the university.

Appointed pro vice-chancellor in 2001, he assumed responsibility for communications, external affairs and economic development. He is also on the board of the university's knowledge commercialisation company, Qubis.

Married with three sons, he said his focus would be on providing leadership and "getting the best out of people".

As for challenges, Professor McCormac said the uncertain future of funding in Scotland was a major issue. "Scotland has decided to find a way to deliver the resources without asking students to make that contribution - we will continue that debate," he said.

Professor McCormac will succeed Christine Hallett in May 2010.

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