Universities Scotland announces new Convener for 2012/14

Universities Scotland, the body which represents Scotland’s universities, today (1 August) announced the appointment of Professor Pete Downes as its Convener for the period 1 August 2012 to 31 July 2014. It was also confirmed that Professor Petra Wend has been appointed as Vice-Convener for the same period.

Professor Downes, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee sits on Universities Scotland’s Executive Committee and has led Universities Scotland’s Research and Knowledge Committee for the last two years.

Universities Scotland Director, Alastair Sim said:


“I am delighted that Professor Downes is willing to undertake this role at a time of challenge and opportunity for the sector. The Universities Scotland team looks forward to working with him and Professor Wend as Vice-Convener.

“I would also like to pay tribute to our outgoing Convener, Professor Seamus McDaid, whose positivity and passion has driven our work over the last year.”


Biography – Professor Downes

Professor Pete Downes, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, joined the University of Dundee in 1989 and was a Vice-Principal of the University and Head of the College of Life Sciences for three years.

Professor Downes is a distinguished biochemist who has played a key role in developing life sciences at the University of Dundee to its current status as a global player with a top 5* research rating, making a significant impact on the Scottish economy and, importantly, on the understanding and treatment of major diseases including diabetes and cancer. His work leading the Division of Signal Transduction Therapy with Sir Philip Cohen has led to the signing of a two phase £23m contract between the University with the world’s six leading pharmaceutical companies in a unique collaboration which anchors work on vital drug discovery to Dundee and Scotland.

He is one of the 15 most cited bio-scientists in the UK and his work has undoubtedly contributed to Dundee University having been named by the Institute for Scientific Information in Philadelphia as the most quoted university in Europe over the last 10 years, in life and medical sciences. As Vice Principal and Head of the School of Life Sciences he can also take significant credit from a poll of international scientists who named Dundee for the fourth year running as the best place in Europe in which to work – The Scientist.

As a biochemist Professor Downes has made an important contribution over many years. He was awarded the Colworth Medal of the British Biochemical Society in 1987 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1991. The esteem in which he is held nationally may be gauged by his election as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Biochemical Society 2001-04. He is a member of the Council of the Biosciences Federation. He was honoured by the Queen with an OBE in 2004.


Biography: Professor Wend

Professor Petra Wend took up her post as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh at the beginning of September 2009.

Prior to that, she was Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and Deputy Chief Executive at Oxford Brookes University from 2005 – 2009.

Fluent in five languages, Petra has worked consistently throughout her career as an academic to cross borders, geographically and socially, in order to realise the full potential of the institutions with which she has been associated.

Professor Wend originally read Italian and French Language and Literature, and Education at the University of Münster in Germany and gained a PhD in Italian Language and Literature at Leeds University. She went on to teach German and Italian at Middlesex University, rising to senior management roles before being appointed as Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the University of North London, now London Metropolitan University, where she subsequently became Pro Vice Chancellor (Learning and Teaching). She joined Oxford Brookes University as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and Deputy Chief Executive in 2005.

With a research background in institutional strategies underpinning successful leadership, improvements in student experience and university performance indicators, Professor Wend has a significant profile of academic publications and invited lectures.

Professor Wend is a member of the Executive Committee of Universities Scotland; she is a member of the Board of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAAHE) (UK); the joint Government and Scottish Funding Council’s Skills Committee and the Edinburgh Business Leadership Forum. As such she is also the Chair of its Sub-committee, the Productivity and Skills Group. She is also a member of the British Council Scotland Advisory Committee and has just joined the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland Committee.