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Pioneer Behind The Powerhouse

Professor Sir Robert Burgess is the celebrated sociologist steering the University of Leicester’s ‘elite without being elitist’ international standing. He was also presented with a Life time Contribution to Midlands Business Award after helping inject millions of pounds in to the city’s economy.

Spare time is a precious commodity for the Vice Chancellor of Leicester University, Professor Sir Robert Burgess.

But when this man, who was honoured with a Knighthood for his contribution to higher education in 2010, manages to carve out an opportunity to unwind off-campus, he can often be found patronising art galleries, enjoying Bradgate Country Park or holidaying in France.

Not only is Sir Robert responsible for making the University of Leicester one of the most respected seats of learning in the world, he has also helped to inject millions of pounds into the city’s economy. This was recognised in February, when the 64-yearold Vice Chancellor and academic received a Lifetime Contribution to Midlands Business Award. The region’s business, industry, civic and academic community honoured him with the prestigious title in recognition of his achievements in making the University of Leicester a powerhouse of innovation and technology during the last 12 and a half years in office.

Since his arrival in 1999 from Warwick, the University of Leicester’s turnover has more than doubled to £260 million and its estimated value to the city is £140 million per annum. The student population has risen to 23,000 and he has developed a major capital programme of £1 billion over the next 20 years which will provide employment and income to the local and regional economy.

As committed to realising the University’s ambitions as ever he says: “The University should be excellent in everything that it does. We are an ambitious institution that likes to see ourselves highly placed in league tables nationally and internationally. Currently the University is placed in the top 20 universities in the UK  and in  he top 2% of universities in the world, which places us in the top 200 universities worldwide.

“The University of Leicester strives to offer its 23,000 students an excellent education whether they are studying on campus or by distance learning. As far as the city is concerned, we contribute to the development of the professions (medicine, law and so on) and we also contribute to the generation of jobs in many areas of city life as well as contributing £700 million per year  to the local economy.”

Akin to commercial chief executives, Vice Chancellor Roberts is responsible for the academic and administrative oversight of the entire University. His agenda in any given week can overflow with duties, including acting as an ambassador for the University, meeting staff, chairing meetings locally and nationally as well as within the University, hosting dinners, meeting alumni and chairing interview panels to appoint senior staff.

Reflecting on his career highlights to date he says: “Clearly among the greatest achievements have been being awarded a Knighthood for services to higher education locally and nationally, winning the title University of the Year in 2008-09 and  winning the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Midlands Business Awards.

“I am also very proud of the fact that the University has performed so well over the last decade rising in league tables and being placed in the top ten universities in England for student satisfaction. In this particular year, we are placed third after Oxford and Cambridge for student satisfaction – a considerable accolade.

“The greatest challenges are how to keep the University of Leicester at the forefront of higher education in the UK, how to continue to expand, develop and enhance the facilities available to students and staff and how to arrange the University’s finances at a time when government support for teaching has been predominantly withdrawn from English higher education institutions.”


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