ESRC CEO appointed as new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester

Posted by er134 at Jan 29, 2014 04:50 PM |
Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council and President of Science Europe, Professor Paul Boyle FBA FRSE, to succeed Professor Sir Bob Burgess Kt., DL, AcSS

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 29 January 2014

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An academic leader who has championed higher education issues on a national and international platform has been appointed as the new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester.

Professor Paul Boyle FBA FRSE is Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council and President of Science Europe.  He is also International Champion of Research Councils UK with responsibility for international strategy on behalf of all seven Research Councils.

He takes up his appointment on 1 October, 2014 as the ninth institutional head in the University’s 90-year-plus history and its sixth Vice-Chancellor since the award of its Royal Charter in 1957.

Professor Boyle succeeds Professor Sir Bob Burgess Kt., DL, AcSS who retires after 15 years of distinguished service. Professor Burgess is the University’s longest serving Vice-Chancellor during which time Leicester has grown in status and stature to rank alongside the foremost universities in Britain.  Leicester features in the top 20 on national league tables, among the top 2 per cent of universities worldwide and this year won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for the third time.

Professor Burgess, who was knighted for his services to higher education, is currently shortlisted for the 2014 Guardian Award for Inspiring Leader in higher education.

Over the past 18 months, the University has commanded worldwide attention for its archaeological work in the Dig for King Richard III.  Professor Burgess will retire in September, the month that marks the 30th anniversary of the discovery of DNA fingerprinting – another landmark discovery from the University.

Announcing the appointment, Chair of the University’s Council, Dr Bridget Towle CBE DL, said: “This is a splendid appointment and a real coup for Leicester.  Professor Boyle has a distinguished academic record and has demonstrated great leadership on the national and international stage.

“We were impressed by the depth of Professor Boyle’s insights into the strategic issues facing the University at this time, by his lucid analysis of the current higher education environment and the impact of present trends upon this University, and by his firm and determined approach to the management and governance of the institution.  We are confident that he will prove a distinguished Vice-Chancellor and a worthy successor to Professor Sir Robert Burgess.”

Professor Boyle said: “I am delighted to be joining the University of Leicester as the next Vice-Chancellor and am looking forward to meeting the students and staff at the beginning of the academic year.  It is a privilege to be moving to a University that is delivering distinctive, world-leading research and education and I am excited by the opportunity to help shape these ambitions in a period of change in higher education.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Robert Burgess, said: “I am delighted that the University has appointed Paul Boyle as my successor. He is a distinguished social scientist who has much to offer the University locally, nationally and internationally.  I wish him every success in developing the University of Leicester and its work.”

Students’ Union President Dan Flatt, who was part of the selection committee, said: “I’m very excited with the appointment of the new Vice-Chancellor. He is clearly an advocate for the student experience and I am certain that he will continue to develop the excellent partnership between the University and the Students' Union. I am certain that the University will continue to improve with this appointment.”

Professor Boyle will serve as Vice-Chancellor Designate from 1 September and, upon Professor Burgess’s retirement at the end of that month, will take up the post of Vice-Chancellor from 1 October.

Professor Boyle has four children. He enjoys sport, including football, running and cycling, as well as travel, reading, walking and spending time at the coast.



  1. Professor Burgess has served as Vice-Chancellor since October 1999 and will retire at the end of September 2014 after 15 years of distinguished service.
  2. Former Principals of the University College are R F Rattray (1919-31); F L Attenborough (1932-51), father of Sir David and Lord Attenborough; Sir Charles Wilson (1952-57).
  3. Professor Burgess’s predecessors as Vice-Chancellor of the University are Sir Charles Wilson (1957-61); Sir Fraser Noble (1962-76) Sir Maurice Shock (1977-87) and Dr Ken Edwards (1987–1999).
  4. Professor Boyle is the eighth person to head the institution. There have been nine positions of institutional head as Sir Charles Wilson was the final Principal and then the first Vice-Chancellor.
  5. The Vice-Chancellor is the chief academic and administrative officer of the University and discharges a role analogous to that of a company's chief executive officer.

About Professor Boyle

Professor Boyle was born on 16 November 1964 (age 49) and grew up in Felixstowe, Suffolk where he attended Deben High School.

He graduated with a B.A. degree in Geography from Lancaster University in 1986, having spent a year at the University of Colorado, Boulder, on an exchange. He returned to Lancaster to undertake a PhD which modelled migration flows in the West Midlands region of England, graduating in 1991. He held his first lectureship at the University of Wales, Swansea and then moved to the University of Leeds, spending a year at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand during this period. He moved to take up a chair in Human Geography at the University of St Andrews in 1999.

His research interests fall within population and health geography, with many projects looking at issues which intersect both these themes. He has published on migration issues, including the influence of family migration on women, on health issues, including health inequalities and the clustering of disease, and on the intersection between demographic and health issues, such as his work on the links between migration and health.

In his capacity as Chief Executive of the ESRC, the leading UK social science funding agency, he heads an organisation with a staff of 120 and an annual budget of £200 million.

In 2011, he was elected as the inaugural President of Science Europe which represents 52 science funders from 27 European countries. He was recently re-elected as President for a second two-year term.

Before joining the ESRC, Professor Boyle was Head of the School of Geography and Geosciences at the University of St Andrews. His research focused on population and health geography and he was Director of the ESRC-funded Longitudinal Studies Centre – Scotland, Co-Director of the ESRC-funded Centre for Population Change, and Co-Investigator on both the Wellcome Trust-funded Scottish Health Informatics Programme and the ESRC-funded Administrative Data Liaison Service.


The University of Leicester is consistently ranked in the top 20 out of over 120 universities.

Leicester is ranked in the top 2% of universities in the world by the QS World University Rankings and THE World University Rankings. In 2013 Leicester was the highest climbing UK university in the THE World Rankings, moving up 35 places to 161st in the table.

The University has won Times Higher Awards in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and most recently in 2013 for Outstanding Communications Team and Outstanding Fundraising Initiative. It is the only university to win awards in seven consecutive years. We also won the Times Higher Education Research Project of the Year.

In 2013 our Students' Union was named HE Students' Union of the Year in the NUS Awards.

High quality research and teaching

  • Research by THE and Opinion Panel published in February 2011 rated Leicester third best in England (after Oxford and Cambridge) for the quality of lecturing staff.
  • Leicester’s Quality Related research funding (QR) is the 19th highest of Britain’s 120 universities.
  • Leicester has one of the highest proportions of staff who are research active in the UK, with approximately 93% of staff submitted for the national 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. Of these, Leicester has 87% of research activity deemed by the RAE to be producing internationally significant research.

Leicester is home to the department with greatest concentration of world class research of any department of any discipline in the UK – in our Department of Museum Studies

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