In tribute: Dr John Rogers

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It is with great sadness that the University of Stirling announces the death of Dr John Rogers, Executive Director of Research, Innovation and Business Engagement.

John worked at the University for more than 18 years and was well known and respected for the positive impact he delivered across the higher education sector and beyond. John was a friend, colleague and inspirational leader and he will be dearly missed.

Everyone at the University extends our thoughts and condolences to John's partner, children and extended family.

Please find a tribute to John below - reflecting on his life and his enormous contribution to research, innovation and higher education at Stirling and elsewhere. 

Dr John Rogers Dr John Rogers.

Dr John Rogers (13/08/1964 – 12/04/2024)

Inspirational, a visionary and a close friend to many, Dr John Rogers was held in the highest regard across our university community. John, who died aged 59, spent more than 25 years working in higher education – with 18 of those here at Stirling. Colleagues will reflect on his extensive knowledge, vast experience and influential leadership; others will fondly remember his warmth, good humour, unrivalled interpersonal skills and, at times, his endearing mischievous streak.

John lived the University's values and embodied its entrepreneurial spirit. Joining Stirling in 2006, John was a proponent and key architect of Stirling's vision to establish itself as a world-class research-intensive university – an institution that was engaged locally, nationally and internationally. Supported by a new team he brought together, he spearheaded and delivered on that ambition – setting the University on course to enhance its reputation for research and innovation. He developed meaningful and impactful relationships with stakeholders across our region and further afield, and was the driving force behind the University's central role in City Region and Growth Deals across Scotland. John was passionate about the University’s role as a force for positive change, and as a place that tackles major societal challenges and makes people's lives better.

Eileen Schofield, Chief Operating Officer and University Secretary, said: “John embodied being the difference and his contribution to the University – and higher education as a whole – cannot be underestimated.

“I first met John over 30 years ago when we both started our careers at the University of Aberdeen. In my role as faculty accountant and John as strategic planning officer, we had many a lively discussion – which remained a theme over the years!  He was always brimming with ideas and new ways of doing things and, even then, he demonstrated his talent for not only getting the big picture, but being able to join the dots and make things happen.

“At Stirling, John was a highly valued member of the senior management team – he was a key driver behind our success as a research-led university and, of course, in securing the University’s partnership in the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal. A consummate networker and with an innate ability to engage people, John was also a catalyst in establishing the University as an anchor institution in our region. His commitment and passion for what he did made an impression on everyone he met.   

“John was a great person. He was a close friend to me and many others here at the University and will be missed by us all.”

Education and early career

Born in Fife on 13 August 1964, John spent his childhood in Edinburgh and was educated at Firrhill High School in the southwest of the city, where he developed a lifelong passion for history. Graduating with a MA (Hons) History from the University of Edinburgh, in 1992 he earned his PhD in Scottish History, specialising in Pictish settlements.

The formative years of John's career were spent at the University of Aberdeen – first in the Registry Office, then progressing to Faculty Officer and Strategic Planning Officer.

In 1998, he took up the position of Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) Manager on behalf of the UK's four higher education funding bodies and was given responsibility for the overall management of the 2001 RAE.

In 2002, he was appointed Assistant Academic Registrar at the University of Manchester, during which time he oversaw the merger with the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). He was later made Head of the Research Office.

University of Stirling

In January 2006, John was appointed Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer at Stirling, under former University Secretary, Kevin Clarke, with whom he had worked at Aberdeen. With research a key strategic priority for the University, John and Kevin worked closely to redefine and drive forward Stirling's ambitions in this area. John's knowledge and vast experience was crucial in setting Stirling on course to become the research-intensive university it is today.

John's remit included research strategy and policy, grant and contract funding, research assessment, researcher development, research governance and integrity, innovation, knowledge exchange and commercialisation. He led Stirling through the 2008 RAE and the 2014 and 2021 Research Excellence Frameworks, with the most recent evaluation confirming that 87 per cent of Stirling research has an outstanding or very considerable impact on society. With his guidance and support, the University has generated record research income in recent years.

His unwavering enthusiasm to apply the University’s research locally, nationally and internationally to bring about tangible, positive change was encapsulated in his inspirational leadership around the University’s City Region and Growth Deal Programme. Under the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, the University is the only Scottish university to be a signatory to a Growth Deal – and the agreement provides an investment package of more than £46 million in university-led projects. The Deal was incredibly important to John, particularly as a catalyst to overcome socio-economic challenges, and he was instrumental in articulating a compelling vision, and turning that into the delivery of the multi-million-pound projects under way today.

Team spirit

A much sought-after presenter, he offered a perspective that people listened to, and was known for his straight and honest views, always delivered in his eloquent, calming manner. He worked extensively on higher education management development projects in the UK and overseas, and previously served as Deputy Chair of the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) Board, as well as Chair of its Finance and Governance Committee.

John embraced talent – subscribing to the ethos that talent couldn't be taught, but knowledge and experience could be gained. He instilled confidence in others, with colleagues reflecting on how much they learned from him. He was a people person and took great pleasure in being with his team. With his good humour and, at times, mischief-making, he and his team found something to laugh about every day. One friend remembered how he regularly raised a smile when he shared his 'Vibe of the Day' emails – inspired by the music he had been listening to on his commute to work.

Away from work, John enjoyed spending time with his daughter Charlie, 20, son Joe, 15, and his partner Fiona and their beloved terrier Tourie. He was at his happiest when outdoors – whether mountain biking, hillwalking or gardening – as well as when listening to music or watching rugby.


Sara McDermid, Director of Innovation and Enterprise, who worked with John since 2007, said: “John was a visionary – an inspirational leader who instilled confidence in us all and empowered us to do our best. There was no challenge to which John couldn’t find a solution – he would always find a way. He worked directly with every member of the RIBE team – enabling us to be part of the implementation and delivery of the many exciting initiatives that he was leading on behalf of the University.

“John always said that we spend too many hours at work not to enjoy ourselves, and he lived by that philosophy every day – and we had fun. Of course, to so many of us across the University, he was a true friend – a source of great support and advice – and, from a personal perspective, he was my professional partner-in-crime. Irreplaceable; we will miss him so greatly.”

Everyone at the University extends our thoughts and condolences to John's partner Fiona, his children Charlie and Joe, and his extended family and friends.