With two tweets, Prof Matthew Evans announced his notice to Queen Mary University of London, standing down on July 1st, 2016. His departure follows that of Prof Jeremy Kilburn. I once shared with the Principal of Queen Mary my view that because managers (like politicians) change all the time, the incentive to build an improved department (which in former times would mean personal recognition) appears to be lacking. Indeed, this pair of managers deeply transformed the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences: in a blink of an eye they recruited over 50 new academics who joined 40 members of staff surviving since 2011, while effecting 35 departures of active researchers. Was it for the better? I think Prof Evans would say so:
April 19, 2016
“A thought from a building site but highly relevant for this day”
Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight, nor present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thanks us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labour and wrought substance of them, "See! This our fathers did for us."
John Ruskin, “The Seven Lamps of Architecture” (1849)
April 20, 2016
“After just five years it is time to move on from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. What can I say? It’s been eventful.”
Going back a few months to January 27, 2016, a public announcement had been made in a different part of the world:
“The Council of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has at its meeting on January 26 (Tuesday) approved the appointment of Professor Matthew Evans as the next Dean of the Faculty of Science, for a term of five years.”
“His appointment was made after a worldwide search of candidates. Professor Evans is a highly accomplished scholar specialised in ecology, evolutionary biology, and conservation biology. He possesses a track record of significant senior leadership experience at University of Exeter and Queen Mary University of London, where he held several Headship and Provost (of a campus) roles, and has proved himself a dedicated and successful administrator.”
“Professor Evans is a communicative leader with strong problem-solving skills, and a bold reformer with the ability to build capability and academic excellence. With his excellent leadership, interpersonal, communication and team-building skills, I trust that he has the right set of attributes for the position of the Dean of Science, and will be able to take the Faculty of Science to a higher level and to lead the Faculty to excel academically both in the region and globally.”
I do not consider that the above statements require commentary. It might be considered inappropriate or biased from someone who opposed Prof Evans’ restructuring proposals and challenged his integrity.
Prof Peter Mathieson is apparently aware of the task that was handled by the newly appointed Dean of Science at the University of Hong Kong, when he was a manager at the University of Exeter. The truly eventful times at Queen Mary led me to coin the term ‘restruction‘. If events in 2011-2016 resulted in an improved School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary, one might expect science to fair better at the University of Hong Kong, under the new Dean.