Professor Kenneth Wade

Kenneth Wade, recruited to Durham in 1961 as a lecturer, had led inorganic chemistry in the Department since the death of Tom Waddington in 1981. The triennium for which he served began on 1 August 1986<1>. It 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.

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) - saw increased external income and esteem as a long-term response to dwindling government income. The Centre set out to increase the number of research-group leaders and make them less dependent on services provided at Departmental expense. Fixed-term academic posts (senior-demonstratorships) were reduced from five to one 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 Support for individual research groups from the Centre’s technical staff was withdrawn and the number of staff was allowed to fall from 27 to 19 by natural wastage and voluntary early retirement.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 from 18 (1986, October 1) to 20, then regarded as the national minimum for a well-balanced chemistry department.

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. The following month saw the end of first-degree graduations in Natural Sciences without honours, with which the Chemistry O2 course unit was associated. In October 1986, a management board was created to share, with the Board of Studies in Physics, the oversight of the programme in the Physics and Chemistry of Materials. The programme had evolved from Joint Honours in Applied Physics and Chemistry (1964-1985). In the single-honours Chemistry programme, curricula leading to a greater proportion of optional final-year lectures were introduced to the second year in October 1988. Much effort went into increasing admissions to the programme, as a decline from 76 to 62 (1984-6) had caused the University to reduce its chemistry quota from 74 (1984) to 61 (1987). 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 an internal promotion to a chair (Feast, 1986) attracted in 1988 its endowment as a chair in polymer chemistry (6 years from October 1989) by Courtaulds Coatings PLC, through the good offices of Robin Harris. 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.

<1> Durham University, Board of Studies in Chemistry, minutes, 1986-1989.


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

hod/prof._kenneth_wade_frs.txt · Last modified: 2016/05/26 14:32 (external edit)
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