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Professor Tim Wheeler broke the news to the University’s staff, speaking in his New Year message of the “pleasure and privilege” of being first the institution’s Principal, then its first Vice-Chancellor, over the past 21 years. The post will be advertised externally later this year.

As the book, On Chester On. A History of Chester College and the University of Chester, written by Professor Graeme White to coincide with the institution’s 175th anniversary in 2014, said: "the pace of change [at Chester] since the turn of the millennium has been breath-taking".

Under Professor Wheeler’s leadership, the University secured Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) in 2003, full University status in 2005 and Research Degree Awarding Powers (RDAP) in 2007, in an ambitiously short time-frame.

During his tenure, the number of students has risen from 4,000 to 18,300 (recruited from 130 countries) locally, with a further 2,400 students gaining University of Chester accredited qualifications at partner institutions across the UK and the wider world. The University now provides employment for around 1,550 staff directly, compared with under 500 in 1998, and helps sustain 3,000 more jobs regionally as part of its annual economic impact of approaching half a billion pounds.

Prudent financial stewardship has seen the institution progress from a turnover of just £14 million with a notional £20,000 surplus, 21 years ago, to today’s figure of a £10.1 million surplus on a turnover of £128.4 million and net assets of £81 million (from just £4 million in 1998).

Professor Wheeler said: “It has been a great privilege and pleasure to lead a team that has achieved so much in a relatively short period of time in establishing the University of Chester in its current form.”

The University’s proud tradition of excellence in teacher training remains strong, and Chester is one of just a handful of universities to have a double Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ rating for primary and secondary education. The 21st Century has also brought success for other disciplines. All academic areas who submitted to the last national Research Excellence Framework assessment (double those in the previous exercise) had work deemed to be ‘internationally excellent’, with a significant proportion judged ‘world leading’. In the first ever Teaching Excellence Framework, the University gained a Silver rating, reflecting the high standard of teaching and learning.

Professor Wheeler has ensured the University has retained its liberal arts provision and mission to promote students to pursue public service, while developing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and support of the professions. All Cheshire’s police officers and most of its teachers and nurses are now trained at the University of Chester, which also provides teacher education and nursing degrees in the Isle of Man, teacher education in North Wales and nursing education in Jersey. Professor Wheeler is currently engaged in the establishment of the University’s medical school.

The acquisition of Thornton Science Park, formerly used by Shell’s academics as an international research hub, has enabled Professor Wheeler to introduce the country’s first comprehensive faculty of engineering for two decades. Research in this area continues to be cutting edge and students work side by side with commercial companies, to mutual advantage. The University’s presence at Thornton is a key component in the new Cheshire Science Corridor Enterprise Zone.

Under Professor Wheeler’s term of office, the University also recently acquired the historic Queen’s Park Campus (Western Command during World War Two) to house the University’s Business School, shortlisted for Business School of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards 2018.

A strategic alliance with Reaseheath College to form University Centre Reaseheath resulted in the creation of the University’s Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Science.

Responding to the Government’s identification of higher education ‘cold spots’, Professor Wheeler created a pioneering partnership with Shropshire Council, to establish a presence in Shrewsbury (University Centre Shrewsbury) which welcomed its first postgraduate students in autumn 2014 and held its first graduation ceremony in 2018. 

Professor Wheeler has represented the higher education sector nationally, as Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) Deputy Chair for six years until 2005 and Chair of the Cathedrals Group (formerly the Council of Church Universities and Colleges) between 2009 and 2011. Regionally, he also chaired the North West Universities Association from 2007-2010.

He is heavily engaged in local economic strategy, as Deputy Chair of the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and a member of the cross-border Mersey Dee Alliance.

A keen supporter of the local community, he has been a School Governor and FE Corporation Governor for over 30 years and is actively involved with Chester Cathedral as a Lay Canon. On the civic stage, he is a Deputy Lieutenant for Cheshire, a Freeman of the City of London and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers.

Professor Wheeler is married with three daughters and one grand-daughter and enjoys music, theatre and the arts.

The Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, President of University Council (its governing body), said: “On behalf of the Council of the University, I would express our deep appreciation for Professor Wheeler’s leadership of the University for over 20 years. It has been a period of very successful development and expansion, which has been a blessing to the many thousands of students who have graduated, and also to the wider communities which the University seeks to serve.

“We look forward to the appointment of a worthy successor as Vice-Chancellor, and a careful period of transition to new leadership. We wish Professor Wheeler every blessing on his retirement.”

Ben France, Chester Students’ Union (CSU) President, added: “On behalf of CSU and the student body, I would like to thank Professor Wheeler for his support and encouragement. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”

Biography

Professor Wheeler was appointed as the inaugural Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester in 2005, having been the institution’s Principal when he first came to the institution in 1998.

He was educated at Colwyn Bay Grammar School, then the University College of North Wales, Bangor, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree and Doctorate in Psychology.

During his career, he has held posts at universities in England, Ireland and Scotland, including: Sheffield Hallam University; Dublin City University; Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen; Bournemouth University; Southampton Solent University and a period as a Senior Visiting Research Scholar at St John’s College, Oxford.

Much of his work has involved academic and industrial consultancies, in addition to experience in Europe, America and Australia. He has published over 120 articles, books and research reports in a diverse range of areas including psychopharmacology, dyslexia, communications and safety.

 

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