Professor Michael Arthur, Vice Chancellor of Leeds University, has been appointed Chair of the prestigious Russell Group of universities.
Arthur succeeds Professor Michael Grant, provost of University College London.
The organisation has also previously been led by academics from the universities of Oxford and Birmingham.
Arthur’s appointment is particularly striking given that he is the first Vice Chancellor of a northern university to be awarded the post.
An effusive Arthur told the Guardian that it was a, “tremendous honour” to have been selected. Arthur, a former Fulbright scholar, first distinguished himself academically at Southampton where he became a research fellow for Medicine in 1982.
Arthur will take over the leadership of the group, named after Russell Square in London where it was established, on September 1, 2009.
The group was formed in 1994 as a lobby-group to represent research-intensive universities to the government and parliament, the group boasts twenty members, including Warwick, Oxbridge and most of the prestigious University of London members.
The group, shadowed by the Aldwych Group of student unions, has gained notoriety amongst students across the country for its vocal and consistent support for top up fees.
In the academic year 2007-8, the group’s members managed to secure 82 per cent of the total research funding awarded to UK universities by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Arthur, however, steps into the breach in one of the most turbulent periods in the group’s history – something he himself recognises: “We face the most turbulent period in higher education for some time – with a recession looming, a general election and a fees review,” he explained to the Guardian.
In 2009 the government launches a review to see whether the current £3,000 cap on tuition fees should be removed.
He can number falling graduate recruitment schemes (which have dwindled by 1/6 thus far and which looks to decrease further following the continuing turmoil in the financial sector) to the problems he will need to address.
Students and university personnel alike will watch with interest the position Arthur takes on these issues in a year which will certainly not be the easiest of his career to date.