The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Professor David Eastwood, has been elected as the new chair of Universitas 21, the global network of leading research universities.

Chairmanship of the network now rotates on a biannual basis and Professor Eastwood was elected unanimously at the Universitas 21 Annual General Meeting in Glasgow last week (May 14-16). It is the first time the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham has held the chairmanship.

Professor Eastwood said: “I delighted to have been asked to chair the Universitas 21 network. The strength and diversity of its members create a powerful global force within higher education. The sector is undergoing rapid change and it is clear that international collaboration is vital to the long-term success of universities and of the sector as a whole. As Chair I will endeavour to ensure that Universitas 21 continues to provide a dynamic framework that fosters international collaboration between leading research universities.”

Professor Eastwood takes over from Professor Fred Hilmer, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales, Australia, with immediate effect.

Jane Usherwood, Secretary General of Universitas 21, said: “Universitas 21 is delighted that Professor David Eastwood has been elected by his fellow university presidents to lead our network for the next two years. Over the 17 years since we were founded, the network has developed collaborative projects in the areas of student experience, educational innovation and researcher engagement and Professor Eastwood’s leadership in these, and other areas where we work together, will prove invaluable in maximising the potential such an established set of relationships might bring. We look forward to working with him to capitalise on the exciting opportunities for our members, students and staff.

“Previous Chairs of our network have come from countries including Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United States. The selection of Professor Eastwood was the unanimous decision of the other members at our meeting last week at the University of Glasgow.”

A Universitas 21 report published last week named the United Kingdom as having one of the highest performing university systems in the world, ranked second in terms of outputs despite ranking only 21st for the level of resources.

The result of the third annual Universitas 21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems placed the UK in eighth place overall, out of a total of 50 countries. This was up two places from last year.

The UK’s 2014 position is made up of a rank of second in the world for output, third for connectivity, 16 for environment and 21 for resources. The disparity between the UK’s enviable position for output and middle-ranking position for resources underlines the quality and efficiency of UK universities. However, with global competitors benefiting from much higher levels of investment, the risk is that the UK’s position will be compromised in the future.

The University of Birmingham has taken a leading role in Universitas 21 since its inception and has steadily increased its involvement for the benefit of its staff and students, encouraging increasing numbers of students to spend some time studying at Universitas 21 partner institutions, and enabling staff to increase their international perspective through involvement in Universitas 21 strategy meetings and events.

From its origins in Melbourne in 1997, Universitas 21 has grown to be a vibrant community of research-intensive universities that collaborate in areas of common interest and application to students, faculty, universities and higher education more widely.

Universitas 21 has 27 members that enrol more than 1.3 million students and employ more than 220,000 staff and faculty. Their collective budgets amount to more than £15 billion and have an annual research grant income of nearly £4 billion. All Universitas 21 member institutions are research-led, comprehensive universities providing a strong quality assurance framework to the network's activities.


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  • Professor Eastwood is also currently Chair of the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities committed to maintaining the very best research, outstanding teaching and learning experiences and unrivalled links with business and the public sector.
  • The University of Birmingham has been named The Times and The Sunday Times University of the Year 2013-14.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked among the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 4,000 international students from nearly 150 countries.
  • The University is home to nearly 30,000 students. With more than 7,500 postgraduate students from across the world, Birmingham is one of the most popular universities for postgraduate study in the UK.
  • The University plays an integral role in the economic, social and cultural growth of local and regional communities; working closely with businesses and organisations, employing approximately 6,000 staff and providing 10,000 graduates annually.