Sir Andrew Witty, chief executive of pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline, has taken over as the new Chancellor of the University of Nottingham.
Witty, who graduated from the University in 1985 with a joint honours BA in Economics, succeeded renowned Chinese physicist Professor Yang Fujia on 1st January, after Fujia’s twelve year tenure as Chancellor.
“The Chancellor is a key figurehead. It is therefore essential to appoint someone who is manifestly successful in their field of endeavour, and who commands widespread respect.” Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Greenaway told Impact.
“In Sir Andrew Witty, we have one of the most highly regarded business leaders in the United Kingdom, with immense experience internationally. He is also someone with a great sense of social responsibility and has personally driven transformational GSK initiatives in developing countries. And of course, he is a graduate of the University of Nottingham. As a former student, Sir Andrew will be a wonderful role model for current and future students. I look forward to working with him to further enrich and develop our University.”
He will play a formal part in graduation ceremonies, act as a national and global ambassador for the University and offer advice on strategy and development.
Witty was knighted in last year’s New Year Honours list for services to the economy and UK pharmaceutical industry.
He has been a keen advocate of affordable medicines for less economically developed countries and supported research into an experimental malaria vaccine. He has also acted as a government advisor.
Witty has maintained connections with the University since he graduated. In spring last year, GlaxoSmithKline made a £12 million donation toward the construction of new research laboratories at the University, the largest single donation since Jesse Boot donated land for University Park campus.
The centre, named the GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Centre for Sustainable Chemistry, will help to foster relations between UK academics, postgraduate researchers and GlaxoSmithKline chemists.
The investment signals a move towards enhanced collaboration between industry leaders and educational institutions.
The company already runs a number of schemes at the University of Nottingham, including postgraduate chemistry studentships, a medicinal chemistry module for undergraduate chemists and opportunities for fourth year MSc project students to participate in live GSK research programmes.
In recent years, GlaxoSmithKline has been mired in various controversies. Most recently the company was fined $3bn, for healthcare fraud in the United States, in July 2012.
The payment, the largest in United States history, was settled after the company admitted to bribing doctors, failing to report safety data and encouraging the prescription of unsuitable medicines.
Among many instances of illegality, the company were found to have made unsupported safety claims about antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin.
The mis-selling scandal developed in the US in the 1990s and 2000s, while Witty held various unrelated roles in Asia, South Africa and Europe.
Since then, GlaxoSmithKline have been widely praised for announcing that they would start to openly publish data from their clinical trials.
Witty’s appointment was approved by the University Council on October 23rd and he will serve an initial term of four years.
Senior News Reporter