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Longest serving UK university vice-chancellor marks three decades of service

The UK’s longest serving university vice-chancellor is looking to the future as he reflects on 30 years at the helm. 

During his 30 years as the head of Edge Hill University, Dr Cater has overseen a period of unprecedented growth and some £300m has been invested in the campus over the last decade, delivering 17 new buildings providing state-of-the-art facilities. 

With Dr Cater in charge, Edge Hill has grown its reputation nationally and internationally into an award-winning institution recognised as ‘University of the Year’ in the Educate North Awards 2020-21 and ‘Modern University of the Year’ in The Times and Sunday Times ‘Good University Guide 2022’. 

As construction continues on, a new £17.4m Life Sciences building and a £35m investment is planned on brand new accommodation and students’ union building, the university is also diversifying its portfolio of courses to include maths, physics, engineering and chemistry in the near future. 

Dr Cater said: “It has been a privilege to influence and improve so many young lives, to work with outstanding colleagues and friends and to be part of an institution on such a positive trajectory, exemplified by, for example, the decision of the Department for Health to award the university a medical school in 2018. 

“Thirty years have flown past. I came into the role at a good time; universities were expanding and resourcing progressively improved. The financial crash in 2008 put an end to that and, whilst the increase in tuition fees in 2012 helped build a sustainable sector, more recent times have inevitably been more challenging. 

“That said, Edge Hill University has prospered over the last three decades, culminating in the university being identified as the Times Higher ‘University of the Year’ in the middle of the last decade and, more recently, Educate North’s University of the Year in 2020/21 and The Times and Sunday Times’ ‘Modern University of the Year’ in 2022. 

“There is more to do. Having invested £350m in the western and eastern campuses, we are now commencing a parallel investment in the campus core, with a vision of making this a match for any university in our region and beyond. And it will be fun doing so.” 

Edge Hill College opened in Liverpool in 1885 as the first non-denominational teacher training college for women. From its origins as a specialist institution with 41 female trainee teachers, Edge Hill now has more than 10,000 full-time undergraduate students and more than 300 part-time undergraduate students on a wide range of programmes, and about 3,300 full and part-time postgraduate students. 

Dr Cater was appointed as acting director and chief executive of what would later become Edge Hill University on 22 June 1993 and was at the helm in 2006 when Taught Degree-Awarding Powers and University Title were awarded; Research Degree Awarding Powers followed in 2008. 

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