Professor Robert Allison (VC Bob) has been a mountainous figure in the Loughborough community since he was appointed as Vice-Chancellor in 2012, reshaping what it means to be a Loughborough student.
After today’s announcement that he is planning to step down, we take a look at his time at Loughborough.
An Olympic Start
Bob became Vice-Chancellor and President of Loughborough University in September 2012 after being the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Sussex University.
Upon being appointed as VC, Prof. Allison said that it was his “intention to build upon the outstanding success [of the former VC]… to ensure that the high international standing of Loughborough University is maintained through excellent research, teaching and learning and links with business and the community.”
From the very beginning, VC Bob worked with students (like the team at LSU Media) to welcome students to Loughborough, and always kept a student-centric approach to his methods.
A Rise up the League Tables
In his time as Vice-Chancellor, Loughborough University rose up the league tables, from being 19th in 2012 to being a top 10 University by the end of his tenure.
This increase in standing has meant that the academic standing of students attending Loughborough has been on the increase, with the quality of teaching, student experience, and entry requirements for the University increasing year-on-year.
The University was awarded the Times Good University Guide’s prestigious ‘University of the Year’ award under his tenure in 2019, showcasing the dominant force the university has become under his 8 years of leadership.
A New Vision for Loughborough
VC Bob has aspired for Loughborough to become the University of choice for all and in his term of office has overseen many fundamental changes.
In 2019 the Vice-Chancellor opened Claudia Parsons Hall, the first hall of residence that has a woman as its namesake.
The Vice-Chancellor in 2013 also oversaw the construction and expansion of the Science and Enterprise Park, which acts as a “launch pad” and a “place to grow” for STEM-based companies to conduct in Research & Development.
Bob also oversaw the continued development of the LU Arts scheme, which focuses on providing opportunities in the arts for Loughborough students.
Most notably during his time at Loughborough, the Loughborough University London campus was opened at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which was established for postgraduate teaching and research students, giving the university a satellite campus for the first time.
Equality and Inclusion
Whilst in office, Prof. Allison has championed policies of equality and inclusion. He has regularly met with the Chairs of the LGBT+ Association and has pushed for inclusion for all students and staff, including through the development and support for the University’s LGBT+ Staff Group.
In 2018, Loughborough University became a member of the Race Equality Charter. On signing the Charter, Bob said that it showed “our commitment to progressing race equality and ensuring staff and students at both of our campuses feel safe, happy and welcome.”
During his tenure, the Vice-Chancellor oversaw the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Rachel Thompson’s appointment as Pro Vice Chancellor for Teaching, subsequently become Loughborough’s first female Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Keeping Students Safe
Robert Allison has always worked tirelessly to make sure students are safe whilst at University.
In 2015, he launched a ‘campus wide safety campaign’, in which the VC said that “it is important that we take more care.” after there had been three ‘major incidents involving cyclists’
The Vice-Chancellor has also pushed for the University’s strict policy on illegal drugs, which came to a head when in 2018 University Security searched a number of halls of residence rooms where a student was suspended and reported to the Police.
At the time, the Vice-Chancellor said that “subject to the processes laid out in our regulations, we will be taking the strongest possible action with regard to this matter” – and he has continued to push this stance throughout his tenure, especially in 2019, when a Loughborough student passed away after a suspected drug overdose, with the Vice-Chancellor openly showing his “sadness” on the passing of the student.
During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, VC Bob spent countless hours visiting isolating students to ensure that they were doing well.
At a time when universities are in the spotlight for not doing enough to support their students, here’s #VCBob on his push bike, checking in on isolating students in town. And this wasn’t a one-off.
— Richard Taylor (@RichardTaylor_) November 26, 2020
A Cult Icon
Robert Allison has achieved cult-figure status amongst many Loughborough students. Although not universally liked, he has become known as a personable figure and is seen often around campus greeting students as he walks past them.
This cult status has meant that a multitude of ‘memes’ have been produced about him, with every new photo of him being used to comedic effect.
His following do recognise his faults, as many have challenged his approach to tackling drug culture, saying that it is too harsh and should be more appreciative of the causes of such culture.
But these tensions have not gotten in the way of the admiration that students hold for him.
Whoever takes over as Vice-Chancellor has big shoes to fill and will have to fill a massive gap in the University once Bob leaves. Robert Allison has become one of the things that makes Loughborough what it is, in the same way that Charlie the cat and the Hazlerigg Building are.
We at LSU Media would like to thank Professor Allison for all the support he has given us over the years, and wish him the best of luck with his future endeavours.