Aston has officially installed Sir John Sunderland as its new Chancellor in a ceremony which took place on Wednesday 4 May, when the chain of office passed from Sir Michael Bett, who had served as Chancellor since 2004.
The installation confirmed Sir John as Aston’s ceremonial head, and gave staff and students of the University an opportunity to gather and celebrate shared values and achievements with representatives of the City of Birmingham, other universities, schools, colleges, industry, commerce and community groups.
The installation of a University Chancellor is a rare occasion, and Sir John Sunderland becomes only the fourth Chancellor of Aston since it gained University status by Royal Charter in 1966.
Sir John Sunderland has had a distinguished career in business and industry, leading the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) as President from 2004 to 2006. His forty year career in Cadbury Schweppes culminated in serving as Chief Executive Officer from 1996 – 2003, before becoming Executive Chairman for five years. Sir John currently serves as a non-executive Director on the Board of Barclays plc, and as Chairman of the Merlin Entertainments Group.
The theme adopted by Sir John for his installation address was the changing landscape of Higher Education, and how universities ‘must adapt to an era where the consumer who pays for their services will seek a clear return – primarily measured in terms of their future employability’.
Sir John noted that ‘in such a world Aston University is uniquely positioned. Its slogan of ‘Employable Graduates, Exploitable Research’ captures the essence of this new world. It also reflects the university’s history from the provision of technical education for the thriving industrial city of Birmingham to university status. Throughout that time there has always been a strong linkage to industry and its need for able graduates’.
Professor Julia King, Vice-Chancellor, addressed the ceremony with these words: ‘In selecting a new Chancellor we were looking for someone who would reflect Aston’s brand as a university with strong connections with and interests in the needs of industry and business, and who would have links to Birmingham and the West Midlands, to emphasise the important role universities play in the cultural and economic life of the region’.
Professor King continued: ‘John is an exceptional businessman and leader whose skills have been sought after by many organisations. His experience, insight, advice and advocacy will be of huge benefit to us in these exciting but uncertain times’.
During the same ceremony, the outgoing Chancellor also conferred an Honorary Doctorate on Sir John Sunderland, before Sir John undertook his first task in his new role, awarding Honorary Degrees to Dame Julia Cleverdon, the former Chief Executive of Business in the Community, John Varley who until earlier this year was Group Chief Executive of Barclays, and Sir Richard Lambert who stood down as Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry in 2011.
Words by Alex Earnshaw
5 May 2011