Vice-chancellor Nigel Thrift has been knighted by the Queen in her New Years Honours list.
Professor Thrift joins other higher education figures in receiving honours, such as the director of Soas Paul Webley, poet-laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and celebrities John Hurt and Joan Collins.
Professor Thrift said of the honour: “This honour is a wonderful way of helping to mark the very first day of the University of Warwick’s 50th anniversary year.
“To me the award recognises the numerous successes that we have all achieved together over the last ten years.
“I want to thank all those – staff, students, alumni, and our supporters and donors – who have played their part in Warwick’s many attainments.”
The award recognises the numerous successes that we have all achieved together over the last ten years
Sir Nigel Thrift
Times Higher Education supplement noted that “the honour comes after a turbulent year at the institution”; the knighthood has attracted criticism among the student population of Warwick.
News of the knighthood has also sparked a petition on the political campaigning website 38degrees.org.uk calling for his knighthood to be rescinded.
The petition stated: “We call upon David Cameron to refer the case of Sir Nigel Thrift to the Honours Forfeiture Committee, with a view to rescinding Prof. Thrift’s 2015 knighthood.”
The petition highlights that Professor Thrift has been knighted on the basis of his “services to higher education”.
Thrift has held positions at both the universities of Oxford and Bristol, and was described by the Royal Geographic Society as “one of the world’s leading social scientists.”
The authors of the 38degrees petition described the knighthood as “an insult to both the staff and students of the University.”
It currently has 426 signatures, at the time of going to print.
VC Thrift’s controversial salary increases were cited by the petition as a factor in their disagreement with the knighthood, while casual contracts of staff at the University and decreased spending on teaching and research were also highlighted.
It also expressed discomfort with the number of leading University figures involved in the ‘private sector.’
Universities must never be corporations
First-year Classics undergraduate Will Tait told the Boar, “A knighthood remains one of the highest honours in the land and is granted in recognition of exceptional service to the country. It is designed to reward and inspire work for the national interest.
“The stewardship of the continued rise of an educational institution barely 50 years old to world renown, a safe place within the top ten educational institutions of the country and highly valued research efforts would seem to meet these criteria.”
Warwick For Free Education told the Boar of their disapproval of the award, while comments below the petition read “universities must never be corporations”, and “his knighthood is for disservices to Higher Education not service.”
Second-year History of Art student Chase Mason however told the Boar: “I think Nigel Thrift is great. He needs to be commended for his work.”
The knighthood marks the beginning of a year that sees the 50th anniversary of the University, with celebrations planned throughout 2015.