His plan is simple: for Nottingham to be one of the leading research institutions in the UK (it came fifth in the latest research assessment league table and increased its numbers of top-graded departments from seven to eleven). But he is careful not to neglect teaching issues - a man with a foot on both escalators.
All degrees at Nottingham are taught as modules - a change introduced last summer in one fell swoop - and a new Director of Teaching Quality has been appointed.
The university plans a modest expansion of student numbers from 7,800 to 10,500 maximum, but nothing to threaten its research role. 'I think we will find universities being split up into three, four or five divisions and we aim to be in the premier division,' said Professor Campbell.
He is not slow to point out that Nottingham was classed as the most popular university with 43,000 applications for 2,000 places last year. Research income has risen from pounds 11m to pounds 25m in the past three years and is up another 50 per cent in the latest six months. The figures fall fast and furious from his lips. 'The pressure is on us to maintain a virtuous cycle,' he says. Professor Campbell obviously thrives on that sort of pressure.
He has streamlined his management team, while keeping elected deans: 'Such democracy is part of the eccentricity of universities. It's very different from polytechnic directorships.'
He does not hide his ambition. He sits on an awesome number of committees, not all to do with universities. He recently became a member of the Inquiry Team into Police Responsibilities and Rewards, for example.
He says outside stimuli make him a better vice-chancellor. Remarkably, his academic staff agree, believing his standing serves the university well.
Professor Campbell is reserved in his attitude towards polytechnics gaining university status and co-ordinated a national campaign against those polytechnics choosing names dangerously close to existing universities (Trent Polytechnic, for example, wanted to be called Nottingham City University).
He doubts whether the vice-chancellors' committee will be able to withstand the tension of widely diverging interests in coming years: 'The CVCP will vote for the lowest common denominator. How can it do otherwise when you have huge research engines on the one hand (and in that he includes Nottingham) and institutions just emerging from college status?'
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