University’s first lady steps down after decade in post

Prof Dame Joan Stringer. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Prof Dame Joan Stringer. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THE first woman vice-chancellor of a Scottish university is to retire next summer after more than a decade in the role.

Professor Dame Joan Stringer will step down as principal and vice-chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University in June 2013.

It comes after she became embroiled in a row with protesters opposing the redevelopment of the former Craighouse campus site. However, the university said that had not influenced her decision.

The Craighouse Partnership consortium, of which Napier is a named partner, wants to build 116 new homes on the historic beauty spot, but the proposal has been met with furious opposition from many local residents, with 5000 signing a petition against the development.

However, Dame Joan recently hit out at campaigners, accusing them of mounting an “emotive disinformation campaign” and trying to discredit the university.

She also revealed that Napier stood to make an estimated £1.5 million from the development, in addition to the £10m it has already received.

A spokesman for the university said the Craighouse issue had “categorically not” been a motivating factor in Dame Joan’s decision.

Dame Joan – who has suffered ill health in recent years, with former vice-principal Dr Peter Easy stepping in when she took a break for several months – took up her post in January 2003.

She said: “The last decade has been the most fulfilling of my professional life and I pay tribute to my outstanding team for working so hard to deliver an outstanding experience for our students and ensure that our knowledge and expertise is used for the benefit of the economic, social and cultural health of Scotland and beyond.

“During my time at Edinburgh Napier, I have become as much a businesswoman as an academic, but I have never forgotten the life-transforming importance of higher education for individuals.”

Over the last ten years, Dame Joan has overseen a £100m estates strategy, which changed the face of the Craiglockhart campus and resulted in the redevelopment of the Sighthill campus.

The university said she had been instrumental in ensuring the employability of Edinburgh Napier students and in bringing a professional approach to raising funds from philanthropic sources. Dame Joan said that, while many accolades had come to the university during her spell, including the Queen’s Anniversary Prize, none pleased her more than Napier graduates leaving the university with excellent employment prospects.

Before moving to Napier, she was principal and vice-patron of Queen Margaret University College. She was made a Dame in 2009.

Universities Scotland director, Alastair Sim, said: “Professor Stringer has been an outstanding principal, delivering tremendous success for Edinburgh Napier University and making an immense contribution to higher education in Scotland more generally.”