University of Stirling Principal recognised with a knighthood

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University of Stirling Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerry McCormac, has received a knighthood in the New Year Honours.

Professor McCormac is made a Knight Bachelor in recognition of his inspirational leadership in higher education and the major contribution that the University of Stirling continues to make to the economy.

Professor McCormac has served as the University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor since May 2010 and was elected Convener of Universities Scotland in August 2020.

Reflecting on his inclusion in the New Year Honours list, he said: “I feel very honoured to receive this recognition and am indebted to the staff and students at the University of Stirling whose hard work and dedication have made the university what it is today. I’m immensely proud of everything that we have achieved over the past decade and the progress that we’ve made.

“Stirling is an international university with a pioneering spirit and a global reputation for high-quality teaching and research. Most importantly, it is a place where ability – not background – is valued. Our successes are testament to the tireless work of our wonderful campus community – our passionate and dedicated staff, our talented students and our inspirational alumni. The enormous challenges posed by coronavirus over the past 10 months have shone a light on the togetherness, resilience and unwavering support of our community – and this honour reflects their efforts. I would like to express my gratitude to all of those who have supported – and continue to support – the University.

“On a personal note, I would also like to thank my family, close friends and colleagues for their support, which is truly appreciated.”

Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerry McCormac

University of Stirling Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerry McCormac.

The knighthood celebrates Professor McCormac’s inspirational leadership at the University – citing the sound economic foundations established during his tenure and the positive impact that this will have on future generations. Today, the University generates around £380 million per annum for the economy – up 90 per cent on the previous review – and, in addition, for each annual cohort, Stirling graduates are expected to generate £400 million for the economy during their working lives.

Professor McCormac is also recognised for leading the regeneration of the Stirling campus, through the £40 million investment in student residences, £20 million in sports redevelopment, and £21 million in improving research and learning facilities.

The knighthood will be confirmed at an investiture, to be scheduled at a future date.

Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said: "Warmest congratulations to Gerry for this much-deserved recognition for his institutional and sectoral leadership. It is particularly fitting that this honour comes at the end of a year in which the vital role of higher education has been demonstrated in new ways; universities have played a major role in responding to the medical emergency of COVID-19 and to the wider and longer-term societal and economic consequences caused by the pandemic. Sir Gerry is deeply passionate about delivering that contribution to its fullest potential throughout the new year and beyond."

Professor McCormac: a biography

Professor McCormac grew up in Belfast. The eldest of seven, he attended St Mary’s Christian Brothers’ Grammar School and was the first in his family to go to university, obtaining his undergraduate degree at the Ulster Polytechnic and PhD jointly from Ulster and the University of Southampton. Specialising in space physics, carbon dating and climate change, he spent the early years of his career at the University of Michigan, where he worked on the NASA Dynamics Explorer satellite programme, before heading up the carbon dating facility at Queen’s University Belfast.

From 2001 until 2010, Professor McCormac was Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Queen’s before moving to the University of Stirling in May 2010.

In his decade at Stirling, Professor McCormac has overseen a significant improvement in Stirling’s research and international presence, and has led the regeneration of the University estate – including the renewal of the University’s accommodation blocks, the redevelopment of the world-class sport facilities, and the ongoing Campus Central development. In addition, he has led the transformation of the student experience, with the University ranked top 20 in the UK in the latest National Student Survey. 

Strengthening the University’s international links, Professor McCormac led the creation of a joint venture with INTO University Partnerships – resulting in a teaching centre for international students being created on campus – and a significant increase in international student recruitment. Under his leadership, the University has established a presence in China and India and developed transnational education with partners in the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Hong Kong – building on pre-existing initiatives in Vietnam, Oman and other countries.

During Professor McCormac’s tenure, the University has received two Queen’s Anniversary Prizes – the first for its work on social marketing in 2014 and the second, in 2019, for its globally recognised Institute of Aquaculture. In addition, Stirling was crowned UK Sports University of the Year 2020 by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide, complementing its long-standing designation as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.

The University is currently playing a critical role in delivering the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, a £214 million investment in the future of the region designed to drive economic growth, productivity and prosperity. The Deal has the potential to leverage additional private investment in excess of £640 million over the next 10 to 15 years, delivering more than 5,000 new jobs across a range of sectors. Significantly, with research and innovation central to the vision, the project will see the University leading the development of Scotland’s International Environment Centre and a new Institute of Aquaculture on the University campus.

In addition to his roles at Stirling and Universities Scotland, Professor McCormac is a UK board member of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Society of Arts, Commerce and Manufacturers, and the Higher Education Academy; and was formerly a Trustee of the Carnegie Trust. In 2011, he chaired a review of teacher employment in Scotland for the Scottish Government and, in 2015/16, he served as an advisor to the Northern Ireland Executive during the creation of their Department for the Economy. Professor McCormac is married with three sons.