Prof Steve West – vice-chancellor of UWE Bristol – has been elected president of Universities UK.
The president-elect will succeed Prof Julia Buckingham this summer when her term-limited two-year incumbency ends. Prof West will begin the role on 1 August 2021 and hold the post for two years.
Prof West has been vice-chancellor, president and chief executive of UWE Bristol since 2008. He joined the university in 1995 as dean of the faculty of health and social care and professor of health and social care.
West said: “I am honoured to have been selected by my peers to lead Universities UK. I firmly believe that together we are stronger and intend to do all I can to ensure universities work as a team to ensure the UK’s higher education sector remains world-leading at this time of great change.
“UUK plays an essential role, harnessing universities’ collective influence to ensure the sector can continue to transform lives through top-class education, research and enterprise.”
The post will see Prof West represent the views of 140 UK universities during what is likely to be a period of significant change for the sector – with institutions in England still awaiting the government’s response to the Augar review.
Prof West served as chairman of University Alliance from 2012-2016 and has chaired UUK’s Health Policy Network and its Mental Health in Higher Education advisory group.
His career also includes spells on the boards of HEFCE, UUK and the Office for Students – he has also chaired the South-West CBI, West of England Academic Health Science Network and West of England Local Enterprise Partnership in his hometown of Bristol. He received a CBE in 2017.
A podiatrist and podiatric surgeon by training, Prof West worked first for the NHS and private sector before entering academia in 1984. He worked first at The Chelsea School of Chiropody and Podiatric Medicine, The London Foot Hospital and Westminster University, before moving to King’s College, London, and Huddersfield University.
West was born in Luton, Bedfordshire and told University Business in 2019 that he had planned as a teenager to follow his father into plumbing. “I struggled at school, struggled with GCSEs, struggled with A-levels,” he told UB. Recently, he has discovered he has dyslexia.
“I remember opening the brown [A-level results] envelope and just this sick feeling. I knew the results were not going to be great because there was nothing in my history to suggest otherwise.
“And, of course, the expectation was that I’d follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a plumber, a heating engineer, but I couldn’t get out of my head that I really wanted to do something in the caring professions. Two things came out: one was dentistry; the other was podiatry.
“And in the end I did podiatry because I wanted to start that September. I didn’t really want to do resits and, even if I did, I didn’t see that it would help.”