Professor Don Nutbeam, the new man in charge at Southampton University, has had some useful experience, both in public health and in the first Blair government, not to mention his years helping to run Sydney University in Australia. He knows how to get things done.
For his PhD, he looked into smoking among schoolchildren and discovered from a survey that teenagers were deeply affected by advertising. Mrs Thatcher flatly refused to do anything to curb cigarette advertising, so Nutbeam bided his time and when he was finally in a position to influence events – during his time as director of public health after 2000 – he acted.
Although disposed to speak frankly about things – see page 5 – Nutbeam knows that in any collegiate institution the leader has to carry staff with him. So he will take care at Southampton to persuade academics that change is needed if Southampton is to fulfil its potential. He will not get an easy ride in his wish to see two or three departments closed but many observers hope he prevails. Southampton is a highly regarded Russell Group university and it could do better still. It certainly could do with an articulate leader like Nutbeam to put it on the map and raise its profile.