The best start

As pro v-c for research at Leeds, Andrew Thompson intends to develop early-career researchers, not least for the REF

May 14, 2009

For Andrew Thompson, the way a university treats its early-career researchers is vital, not only to them, but also to the success of the institution at large.

When he takes over the role of pro vice-chancellor for research at the University of Leeds this August, he will assume responsibility for ensuring that it prospers from the switchover from the research assessment exercise to the research excellence framework as the principal means by which research funding is allocated.

He is adamant that paying attention to the needs of staff just starting out on their research careers will be a crucial part of this.

"One thing I want to champion in the role is the importance of high-quality research leadership and mentoring, to prepare and position Leeds as best as possible in the transition to the REF," he said.

"I've been very lucky to have some great research mentors who put time into helping to develop me and my research, providing me with the right guidance at the right stages."

This is something he wants to encourage at Leeds "in order to maximise our chances of winning awards and to grow and achieve our market share of grant income".

Professor Thompson's first academic post was as a tutorial fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, which he held while completing his doctorate. It was during his time there that he recognised the significance of a "vibrant postgraduate research community" and the effect it can have in "lifting up the whole research atmosphere of an institution".

Describing himself as someone who enjoys both teaching and research, he said he firmly believed that each side of the academic coin complements the other: "The two can not only work in tandem, but can also be mutually supportive."

Professor Thompson is a founder and co-director of the Leeds Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. As one of the UK's leading scholars on the history and legacy of the British Empire, he is currently leading work on Britain's Experience of Empire during the Twentieth Century, a volume with several authors.

He is perhaps best known for his book The Empire Strikes Back: The Impact of Imperialism on Britain from the Mid-Nineteenth Century, which he said his eldest daughter described as "a title that would bring disappointment to all Star Wars fans".

Currently dean of Leeds' faculty of arts, he will take over as pro vice-chancellor for research from Margaret Atack.

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