It's an honour for UEA vice-chancellor

RICHARD BALLS After three days of congratulating thousands of graduating students, the boot was on the other foot yesterday as the University of East Anglia's vice-chancellor David Eastwood stepped up to the podium to be made an honorary doctor of letters.

RICHARD BALLS

After three days of congratulating thousands of graduating students, the boot was on the other foot yesterday as the University of East Anglia's vice-chancellor David Eastwood stepped up to the podium to be made an honorary doctor of letters.

The father-of-three leaves UEA in September to take the post of chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) - the body which controls more than £6bn of university finances each year.

Prof Eastwood, a former Oxford historian who served as chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Board before joining UEA in 2002, has been lauded by his colleagues for his hard work.

“The honour means a great deal,” he told the EDP. “I have spent four years at UEA and it has taken something very special to entice me away.

“I have mixed feelings about going although, of course, I am excited because it is a big national job.”

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He said there were many things he was proud of during his time at UEA.

“One of the greatest things is being able to move it forward. During my time there has been the creation of University Campus Suffolk, we have gained International Foundation College status not to mention the massive capital programme - we have spent more than £100m. The university also probably has a higher national and international profile than ever before.

“It has been a pleasure to work with 2,500 staff. It really is a case of everybody together.”

On the future of UEA, he said: “I think it is set to be highly successful. Obviously this is a challenging period with new fee regulations and a comprehensive spending review plus the ever-greater competition for students, particularly international students, but I think the UEA will continue to thrive.”

Tributes to the Manchester United fanatic were led by pro-vice-chancellor Trevor Davies who gave the oratory at the graduation ceremony.

He joked: “When I was trying to dissuade him from leaving his position of vice-chancellor at this excellent university, he responded in footballing terms, 'Well pro-vice-chancellor, it was a very difficult decision, but it's like being a football manager and being offered the top job as manager of England'. Recent events have, of course, confirmed his faulty judgment.”

Prof Davies said he had been an outstanding vice-chancellor, making immense contributions to UEA, to the raising of its profile on the national and international stages and to the relationships in the city and region.

“We have been charmed by his demeanour, even under the severest of pressure, and by his well-developed sense of humour,” he said.

Tributes were also paid at a ceremony held at the Sainsbury Centre yesterday evening by Andrew Thomson, dean of the faculty of science, who read a self-penned poem about his departing colleague. Prof Eastwood was presented with a framed Norwich City shirt by former Canaries goalkeeper Bryan Gunn and some bottles of vintage wine.

Among those at the gathering were the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson, Lord Mayor of Nor-wich Felicity Hartley, chief executive of Norfolk County Council Tim Byles, and former home secretary and Norwich South MP Charles Clarke.