Professor Kenneth Wade

Kenneth Wade [for biographical notes click ken_wade_articles] became chairman in 1986 on October 1 and served until the close of the 1988-9 fiscal year on July 311). His service coincided with national government reforms at their most severe, intent on driving down the unit cost of undergraduate education and on increasing the quality and quantity of research at no extra cost to the taxpayer. The Department survived this lean period and secured a significant future through the excellent team spirit of the academic, technical and administrative staff that characterised his chairmanship.

In August 1986, the University introduced a budget-centre regime to force its larger academic departments to reduce their recurrent financial expenditure by 6% over three years. The Chemistry Budget Centre - the Department’s Chairman being budget officer, advised by a finance committee (the equipment committee re-briefed) - set itself the aim of increasing external income and esteem as a long-term response to dwindling finance from government. Determinedly the Centre strove to increase the number of research-group leaders and make them less dependent on embedded experimentalists provided at Departmental expense. Fixed-term academic posts - senior demonstratorships2) - were reduced, as they fell vacant, from five to three (one a half-time post, with administrative duties replacing research) and senior experimental officers from six to five. Support for individual research groups from the Centre’s technical staff was withdrawn and the number of staff was allowed to fall from 27 to 19 by natural wastage and voluntary early retirement. The Department was required to shoulder an increasing share (60% by the triennium end) of the salary cost of the Science Faculty mechanical workshop as the University’s contribution shrank to zero. From August 1988, Departmental funding of the consumables of research-groups was distributed per capita and monthly budgetary statements confronted their leaders. Yet in three years the Department succeeded in increasing their number, on October 1, from 17 (1986) to 20 (1989), then regarded as the national minimum for a well-balanced chemistry department. The departure of Hugh Munro in 1988 for a career in industrial research was countered by the appointment of JasPal Badyal, Jeremy Hutson and David O'Hagan as lecturers and Randal Richards as reader (external appointment).

May 1987 saw the end of the teaching of practical radiochemistry to second-year undergraduates and a formalisation of the monitoring of attendance at all laboratory classes, prompted by a growing number of student appeals against academic assessments. A year later saw the end of first-degree graduations in Natural Sciences without honours for students of the Chemistry O1 and O2 course units. The units could not be taught by extraction and typically attracted less than ten takers. The first graduations in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry in 1987 heralded the appearance in August 1988 of the Biological Sciences Department, formed from the Departments of Botany and Zoology. In the single-honours Chemistry programme, curricula leading to a greater proportion (62% - the prevailing figure had been 25% since 1982) of optional final-year lectures in 1989-90 were introduced to the second year in October 1988, as were changes that enabled the lengthening, in October 1989, of the optional final-year project from 33% (in 1985) to 67% of laboratory instruction time. Much effort went into increasing Chemistry admissions, as a decline from 75 to 62 (1983-6) had caused the University to reduce its chemistry quota from 74 to 61 (1984-7). Improved outreach to secondary schools produced 71 admissions in 1987, earned a quota of 69 for 1989 and delivered 79 admissions that year.

Funding for doctoral students increased – 18 admitted in 1986, 22 in 1989 - and a first, hesitant step towards reunions 50th Birthday Party assembled, in April 1988 at St John's College, 38 of the 114 higher-degree graduates from starters in 1972-81 and 13 of their 18 supervisors. An internal promotion to a chair (Feast, 1986) attracted in 1988 a commitment from Courtaulds Coatings PLC, through the good offices of Robin Harris, to endow that chair as a professorship in polymer chemistry, with secretarial support, for six years from October 1989. Research-grant income and number of refereed research papers per research-group leader rose steadily, placing the Department favourably in the performance indicators of the Universities’ Funding Council, the successor (April 1989) to the University Grants Committee.

A worrying shortage of accommodation was eased slightly by the acquisition of rooms (98; 98A, B, C), next to the Mathematics Building, for surface-chemistry and electron-spectroscopy research - and by the removal of fume cupboards from lecturers’ offices. In a further gesture to improvement of the workplace (January 1988), the Department imposed a pioneering prohibition on smoking in rooms not occupied singly.


For 1983-1986, see Professor Richard Chambers; for 1989-1992, see Professor Robin Harris.

1) University of Durham, Board of Studies in Chemistry, minutes, 1986-1989.
2) Three of these full-time posts were created in 1964, each with a fixed term of three academic years, to serve as apprenticeships for open-term University lectureships. Two more were added in compensation for the University's temporary disestablishment of vacated lectureships. Yet the posts were barely fit for purpose: teaching loads were relatively heavy, access to funding for novel research equipment was virtually non-existent and the posts' duration was too short for the recruitment and supervision of a Ph.D. candidate. By 1988, the 42 occupants of these posts had produced merely two lecturers for the Department. The last full-time appointee left in 1994. By 2005, teaching fellows had begun to share, with research-group leaders, the delivery of undergraduate education (Professor David Parker-2nd chairmanship, paragraph 3.).
hod/kenneth_wade.txt · Last modified: 2016/07/20 19:26 by euan
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