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Champion of Cornish Higher Education retires

Professor Keith Atkinson, Provost of the University of Exeter's Tremough Campus near Penryn, is retiring on 30 September. Professor Atkinson championed the establishment of a campus in Cornwall for the University of Exeter, which is shared with University College Falmouth as part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) initiative. Although he is retiring from the day-to-day running of the campus, Professor Atkinson is being retained by the University to advise on future developments, assist with future funding negotiations and liaise with other bodies in Cornwall. His other duties will be covered by the Provost Designate, Professor Matthew Evans, who currently heads the University of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the Tremough Campus, and who will take over as Provost in 2008.

Professor Atkinson was appointed as the first Cornwall Provost of the University of Exeter in 2002 when he retired as Head of the Camborne School of Mines. Prior to this he was heavily involved in the University's attempt to establish a campus in Cornwall during the 1990's and has been active in the CUC since its inception. He has been a member of the CUC's Steering and Executive Committees since they began, having stood down from the Chair of the latter only last year.

In 2002 Professor Atkinson was the only Exeter staff member on the Tremough site and since then has overseen its rapid and successful growth. This year, applications to study with the University of Exeter on the Tremough Campus rose by 164%. In October, the University will welcome over 450 new students to Tremough when the second phase of the Campus opens, offering new degrees in Cornish Studies, History, Law and Politics, alongside existing degrees in Biology, English, Geology, Geography, Mining Engineering and Renewable Energy. With a growing team of world-class academics, the University has brought some £5.4 million in new research income to Cornwall since 2004.

Born in Port Talbot, South Wales, Professor Keith Atkinson moved to Cornwall in 1969 when he was appointed a geology lecturer at Camborne School where he worked in various roles until 2002, finally as Principal. Under the previous Principal, Dr Peter Hackett, Keith led the negotiations with the University of Exeter resulting in the merger of CSM with the University in 1993.  He was a Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter from 1997 to 2000. He now lives in St Mawgan, near Newquay with his wife, Maureen. He has two daughters and three grandchildren.

Professor Keith Atkinson said: "In some ways I am sad to be retiring at such an exciting time for the University and for Cornwall but, having seen the campus grow from nothing to the success it is today, I think the time is right to hand over to the next generation. There is undoubtedly now a great vitality in Cornwall that wasn't here a decade or so ago. I am sure the University will go from strength to strength and continue to provide the research driver for higher education in Cornwall. It gives me a great feeling of personal satisfaction to have been involved in such a wonderful project which will benefit the people of Cornwall for generations to come."

During his time as Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Atkinson was responsible for restructuring the University's academic departments and for the creation of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies including raising nearly £7 million in endowments from the United Arab Emirates. He helped establish the University of Sharjah, UAE, and was the first non-Arab Trustee on the Governing Body of that University. Through his research in geology, he was author and editor of two text books and of over 50 scientific articles in learned journals.

Professor Atkinson plays an active role in the community.  He is on the Strategic Steering Group of the Cornwall Sustainable Energy Partnership and is a Director of the Cornwall Sustainable Buildings Trust. He is also a Director of Cornwall Finance Partners Limited and has recently been elected a Councillor for St Mawgan Parish. He is a Past President of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall and was awarded the Society's Bolitho Gold Medal, for Services to Geology, in 1995.  He was also a Council Member of the Geological Society of London and of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy. He was awarded the Goldfields of South Africa Silver Medal by the Institution in 1990. He was previously a governor of Truro College, Redruth School and Truro High School and a Parish Councillor at Illogan. As well as his on-going role for the University, and his duties as a Parish Councillor, in his retirement Professor Atkinson will continue on the Board of Trustees of the University of Sharjah and hopes to return to mining geology with companies in Malaysia and South Africa. Retirement will also allow him to spend more time in his garden, reading, travelling and with his family.

Dr Ian Tunbridge, Chief Executive of CUC said: "Keith has been an enthusiastic champion of the Combined Universities in Cornwall since its inception. His energy, enthusiasm and passion for Cornwall have been invaluable in transforming the initial CUC vision into the vibrant partnership that is doing so much to regenerate the county today. Keith has also been closely involved in our future plans, which include a further expansion of the University of Exeter's commitment to CUC in the shape of the proposed Environment and Sustainability Institute, a world-class research facility which will act as a magnet for inward investment. I have no doubt that he will enjoy a very active retirement and look forward to working with his successor."

Professor Matthew Evans, the new Provost of the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus said: "Keith has been part of the Cornish part of the University of Exeter before such a thing existed. He has been a major driving force behind the university's developments in the county and the formation of the Cornwall Campus as it exists today. The University wishes him all the best in his well earned retirement and we will try to disturb him as little as possible."

The £100 million Tremough campus is a Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative of which the University of Exeter and University College Falmouth are two of the founding partners. It is funded mainly by the European Union (Objective One), the South West Regional Development Agency, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall County Council. Set in 70 acres of countryside, but close to the waterside towns of Penryn and Falmouth, the campus offers a lively student community. The University of Exeter now offers degrees in Biology, Cornish Studies, English, Geology, Geography, History, Law, Mining Engineering, Politics and Renewable Energy on its Tremough Campus, which has expanded rapidly as part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative.

For further information please contact Sarah Hoyle, Press Officer, University of Exeter, on 01392 262062 or email

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) project, both Phase 1 and Phase 2, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). University of Exeter is a partner of the CUC.


Editor's notes:



Clare Morgan
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