This report covers the academical year from 1st October 1995 to 30th September 1996. Professor Broers was Head of Department for the first six months; he resigned on 31st March to prepare for assuming the Vice-Chancellorship on 1st October 1996. During the Michaelmas Term, I was appointed to succeed him and took over on 1st April.
This date coincided with the submission of the Department's return for the Government's Research Assessment Exercise. We had been working since January to assemble detailed information and statistical data on the research of the Department over the previous four years. The submission consisted of a carefully-prepared statement accompanied by a list of the best four publications of each member of staff during the assessment period, and data on ourselves and our research students. The high level of public awareness of this grading of university departments, combined with the financial penalties that befall universities that do not perform well, put considerable strain on staff and I am grateful to all my colleagues and, particularly, to Heads of Divisions who bore the brunt of drafting our written return. Detailed preparatory work was masterminded by our Director of Research, Dr Malcolm Macleod, and the collection of data and its computer processing was professionally coordinated by Mrs Rosalie Orriss.
The Department presented itself in 15 research sub-areas, each headed by a professor, and we spent some time evaluating the boundaries of these areas. It was necessary to demonstrate that all were of the best national standard and that most of them were of international eminence. Our choice proved wise because we learnt (in the next academical year) that the Department had secured the top grade of 5*A, which indicates the highest research rating of 5* with the A denoting that over 95% of eligible staff had been included in the exercise. This gratifying result was tempered by the knowledge that the whole exercise is likely to be repeated in four years time and that we have to plan ahead to ensure that we remain well placed for future assessments.
During the year, the Faculty Board and the University's General Board accepted my proposal that we should have three rather than two Deputy Heads of Department. Dr Martin Cowley has continued as Deputy Head (Teaching); Professor Keith Glover is the new Deputy Head (Research) and Professor Ann Dowling the new Deputy Head (Graduate Studies). Professor Glover leads a working party exploring our research strategy and Professor Dowling chairs a group looking at all aspects of graduate study, which we expect will be a future growth area for the Department.
We have also been examining the long-term growth plans of the Department. Professor Stephen Williamson chairs the Space Committee, which has consulted widely and has laid the groundwork for a plan to progressively refurbish and modernise accommodation on the Trumpington Street site. For the foreseeable future, we envisage undergraduate teaching staying where it is, although if major research initiatives require new buildings, these will be on the West Cambridge site in Madingley Road. Our Whittle Laboratory for turbomachinery is already there and during the year was extended to provide additional rooms for staff and research students. The extension was opened by Sir John Cadogan, Director General of the Research Councils, on 23 February 1996. Sadly Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, who had been an undergraduate in the Department in the 1930s, died later in the year. The Department was well represented by past and present members of staff at his memorial service in Westminster Abbey.
This year the Annual Report has brief sections describing undergraduate and graduate teaching. The fourth year of the 4-year course is now firmly established and we believe that this new undergraduate programme, which leads to an MEng as well as the traditional BA degree, is proving very successful. The Engineering Council's present review of the routes to registration for chartered engineers suggests that four-year courses will become the norm for engineering degrees before long. For a multi-disciplinary course such as the Cambridge one, we have found that four years is essential. The combination of breadth and depth in fundamentals which such a course provides is ever more essential in the increasingly complex engineering world.
During the year, Dr Bill Milne was elected to the Chair of Electrical Engineering made vacant by the resignation of Professor Broers and Dr Bill Dawes was elected to the Francis Mond Chair of Aeronautical Engineering which became vacant on the resignation of Professor Mike Gaster. Both new professors were already members of the Department and I congratulate them on their promotion. One of our three Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professors of Design, Professor Andrew Palmer FEng, FRS, was appointed to the Research Professorship of Petroleum Engineering. This new chair was made possible by the generosity of Mr Hamid Jafar, and has allowed us to extend research and teaching in geotechnical engineering into this important field. Also I am pleased to congratulate Dr Malcolm Bolton on promotion to a readership in Geotechnical Engineering and Professor Ann Dowling on her election to the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The high standing of the Department in both research and teaching relies on the enthusiasm and dedication of its staff. Details of their work and achievements during the year under review are given in the following pages. I am grateful to all of my colleagues who have taken time to prepare this report, and thank them for their continued loyalty and cooperation.
Readers who wish to learn more about particular matters can do so by contacting the member of staff indicated, or myself. We shall be pleased to help.