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University targets the cream of the crop as it aims for the world stage.

A NORTH East university is planning to recruit "the world's most brilliant minds" as it aims to become a world leader in education.

Durham University is to recruit 50 professors, including 10 from overseas, as it builds more teams of academics across different disciplines who will join forces for research.

The university's vice-chancellor, Professor Chris Higgins, says it is his aim to make Durham a global brand and to boost its rankings in the national and international league tables.

"People know of Oxford and Cambridge, but Durham is less known about worldwide," he said. "We continually strive to reach new levels of excellence. In order to help us achieve this goal we are hoping to attract some of the world's most brilliant minds.

"Our search will cover the globe and will take nearly a year to complete. We aim to be a university where the most motivated postgraduate students and leading researchers choose to work and visit."

Durham is currently joint sixth in The Times Good University Guide. Breaking into the top five would mean beating one of the London colleges ahead of them: the London School of Economics, Imperial College or University College London.

In The Complete University Guide 2013, which was published last week and ranks 116 universities, Durham was named as the fifth best institution nationally.

Prof Higgins said: "Our continually strong performance in this and other league tables highlights the opportunities on offer.

"Our students benefit from the university's tremendous strength in combining excellent research and teaching, with the distinctive social and pastoral experience of our collegiate system and superb access to extra-curricular activities such as sport, the arts, or community outreach."

Prof Higgins said Durham, one of four new members to join the Russell Group of leading research universities, has chosen to keep its undergraduate numbers stable and will expand only a small number of courses such as history.

Instead the university has increased its staff budget by pounds 5m to create 40 new professorial posts and it is also recruiting internationally to fill a further 10 vacant academic positions.

Each of the new academics will have teaching responsibilities. "Our students get taught by world-leading researchers and interact with them on a daily basis," Prof Higgins said.

"They also get an education which incorporates research right from the start of their undergraduate career. We don't have research-only professorships."

He added hiring more academics will improve staff-student ratios and should push up the university's citations for published research, which are key league table measures.

Durham has a strong reputation and is ranked 83rd in the Times Higher Education global table and 95th in the QS World University Rankings table.

The university's decision to hire academics to create clusters of research mirrors the trend in higher education to move away from the "lone scholar" model in which experts work in isolation. An example is Durham's decision to strengthen its research into prevention of climate change, hiring biologists, geographers and earth statisticians who will teach undergraduates separately but work together on research.

Similarly the university will build capacity for research into sustainable energy, such as carbon capture and storage and wind power, by hiring teams of physicists, engineers and social scientists.


AIMING HIGH Chris Higgins
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 1, 2012
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