University head’s sudden departure for ‘personal reasons’

The following news story written by me appeared first on Birmingham Eastside, Friday October 14, and was picked up by the Birmingham Mail and other local media:

The sudden resignation of Birmingham City University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Cliff Allan, announced in an brief email, (Friday 14 October) came as a shock to staff.

During his near four-year tenure Vice Chancellor Professor Cliff Allan has overseen the transformation of Birmingham City University and its surroundings in Eastside into a hub for education, creativity and technological excellence.

During the same period, however, the university has fallen down the national rankings, as listed in the Complete University Guide. This year it has fallen to 95th, from a previous position in 2012 of 66th.

Prof Allan has led the plans for an expanded City Centre Campus, including the extension of the Curzon Building into an impressive multi media facility housing some 3,000 students and staff including Business, English, Law and Social Sciences, as well as a new library, teaching and IT space and other student facilities.

It also featured the restoration of the Victorian pub The Eagle and Ball, providing a unique home to the Students’ Union.

Professor Allan has also overseen the start of work on the new Birmingham Conservatoire, the first new build of its type in the UK since 1987.

The finished building near Millennium Point will provide state-of-the-art performance space and acoustical quality. It will comprise five performance venues, including a public concert hall with the capacity for 400 seats and a full orchestra, plus a recital hall at 150 seats and smaller experimental music space, organ and jazz rooms. There are also plans for more than 70 music practice rooms of various sizes.

Professor Allan said, when building work started in 2015:

“These state-of-the-art facilities offer current and prospective students’ unrivalled teaching provision. During its long history our world renowned Birmingham Conservatoire has earned an international reputation for the excellence of its music teaching, research and performances.

“It provides us with a glorious opportunity to build on our proud history and continue to develop world-class music facilities for future generations.”

Professor Allan took up the role of Vice-Chancellor in December 2012, continuing a long career in Higher Education.

He studied and lectured in Politics and International Relations, and then spent a number of years in Africa working for non-governmental organisations and development agencies, with a particular interest in education programmes.

His move back to the Higher Education sector came with a role at the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council which subsequently merged with the Universities Funding Council to form the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) where Professor Allan was Head of Teaching and Learning Policy until 2000, developing strategies to support learning and teaching, widen participation and improve graduate employability.

His next move saw him spend three years at Teesside University as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic Development), before his move to Sheffield Hallam University where he was Deputy Vice-Chancellor, responsible for the development of the University’s corporate strategy, academic portfolio and international strategy, overseeing the management of HR, Marketing, Student and Learning Services, and Facilities and Estates.

Taking up the reins in the short term is associate member of the BCU Board of Governors, Professor Graham Henderson.


He was the Vice-Chancellor of Teesside University from 2003 until his retirement in May 2015. He had previously worked for a number of other higher education institutions across North-East England.

Professor Henderson was awarded the CBE in 2011 for his outstanding services to higher education. He was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire in 2012.

In addition to his role as Board member of a number of University companies, Graham is a member of a number of Higher Education and Leadership boards, advisory groups and networks. He is a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and a Companion of the Chartered Management Institute (CCMI). Graham is also a Trustee of the Captain Cook Birthplace Trust and a Patron of Community Campus.


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