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Colin Campbell (academic)

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Colin Campbell (academic)

Sir Colin Campbell, DL, FRSA, an academic lawyer, was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, England and served until 2006 as Her Majesty's First Commissioner of Judicial Appointments.

Campbell retired as vice chancellor of the University of Nottingham in September 2008.[1] He was appointed in 1988 as the country's youngest vice chancellor at the age of 43.

In 1999 he caused much cacchination in the HE sector by proposing the effective privatisation of universities, saying that what was good for telephone companies, railways and airlines must be good for academia, too.[2] He was long a loud advocate of controversial plans to introduce tuition fees. He was criticised for the university's decision to accept, in 2001, a £3.8M endowment from tobacco multinational British American Tobacco aimed at establishing an International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility at Nottingham University Business School. Many current and prospective staff at the university felt that such a relationship with a tobacco company that has been accused, amongst other things, of illegal smuggling;[3] trading with the Burmese junta;[4] and illegally targeting their products at African children,[5] was highly unethical however. This belief lead to resignations, including that of Richard Smith, editor of the British Medical Journal, the loss of at least one grant for £1.5m from the Cancer Research Campaign, and the decision of the director of the Gene Targeted Drug Design Research Group to take his 15-strong team to the University of London.[6]

Further controversy came in 2008 when Campbell issued a statement in response to the then recent arrests[7] under the 2000 Terrorism Act, of a student, Rizwaan Sabir, and member of staff, Hicham Yezza, at the university,. They had been held for six days before being released without charge after downloading documents relating to terrorism from a US government website for research purposes. Appearing to reject the notion of academic freedom, ¿Campbell said in his statement that "There is no 'right' to access and research terrorist materials. Those who do so run the risk of being investigated and prosecuted on terrorism charges. Equally, there is no 'prohibition' on accessing terrorist materials for the purpose of research. Those who do so are likely to be able to offer a defence to charges (although they may be held in custody for some time while the matter is investigated)."[8] Many academic staff in the institution found this legal formalism an unacceptable abdication of managerial responsibility, which demonstrated to some that Campbell, to the end, had always been more interested in cutting a figure as a businessman in tune with the establishment zeitgeist than defending and extending academic values.[9]

Rod Thornton asserts that Campbell appeared to have lied in a public statement to Times Higher Education about the case, when he claimed that the university had conducted a full risk assessment before reporting the matter to the police. Thornton asserts that this was contradicted by several other sources, including Campbell's own version of events in his account to the then Minister for Further and Higher Education. These sources suggest (in Thornton's view) that the university had never carried out such a process.[10]

Just prior to retirement, Campbell received a 90% pay increase, which saw him receive a salary and benefits package worth £585,000,. This made him the highest earning vice chancellor in the UK.[11] Upon his retirement The Sunday Times called him "The Sir Alex Ferguson of Vice Chancellors": no one knew if that was a compliment.[12]


Campbell graduated with First Class Honours in Law from the University of Aberdeen. He subsequently held appointments at the University of Dundee and the University of Edinburgh before becoming Professor of Jurisprudence at Queen's University of Belfast, where he was Dean of the law faculty and a Pro Vice Chancellor as well as Chairman of QUBIS Ltd. He was a member of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights for Northern Ireland, the Legal Aid Advisory Committee, and the Mental Health Legislation Review Committee; he also chaired various committees of inquiry in Northern Ireland.

He has previously served on the University Grants Committee as Vice Chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and as a member of the Board of the Higher Education Funding Council for England. He was chairman of the Northern Ireland Economic Council from 1987 to 1994, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority from 1990 to 1994, the Human Genetics Advisory Commission from 1996 to 1999, and the Medical Workforce Standing Advisory Committee from 1991 to 2001. He was a member of the Sheehy Inquiry Team into Police Responsibilities and Rewards and a member of the Trent Regional Health Authority from 1993 to 1996. He was Chairman of the Food Advisory Committee from 1994 to 2001. In 1999, he was appointed to the Board of Swiss Re.

He was knighted in 1994 and was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire in 1996. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was elected a member of the Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences in 2000. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Aberdeen in 2001. In September 2004, he was named an Honorary Citizen of Ningbo Municipality by the Standing Committee of the Ningbo Municipal People's Congress, in recognition of his contribution to the construction and development of Ningbo, where The University of Nottingham became the first foreign university to establish a campus in China. In April 2006, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Academic offices
Preceded by
Basil Weedon
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham
Succeeded by
David Greenaway


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