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Obituary: Professor Eric Thomas

We are deeply saddened by the death of Sir Eric Thomas.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol until his retirement in August 2015, Sir Eric Thomas graduated in medicine from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1976 and obtained his MD by thesis in research into endometriosis in 1987. He trained as an obstetrician and gynaecologist and worked at the universities of Sheffield and Newcastle before being appointed Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Southampton in 1991. He was Head of its School of Medicine before becoming Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Biological Sciences in 1998, and then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol in 2001.

In 2013 Sir Eric was appointed the Government’s UK International Education Champion and co-chaired the new International Education Council alongside the Universities and Science Minister. In this capacity he advised on international education strategy and works with government and industry to support the UK education sector.

Among his many public roles Sir Eric served as President of Universities UK (2011-2013); Trustee and then Chair of CASE Europe (2007-2014), member of the CASE Board, North America (2010–2014) and Chair of the Worldwide Universities Network (2003–2007). He is a Trustee of IntoUniversity and of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. He was a Deputy Lieutenant of the City/County of Bristol.

Awarded a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2013 for services to higher education, Sir Eric was a champion of part-time HE and of Birkbeck in particular. He chaired Universities UK’s 2013 review of part-time higher education provision, The power of part-time, which highlighted the 40% downturn in part-time education that followed the major funding changes in the UK higher education sector in 2012.

Throughout his life, Sir Eric gave his all to succeed in whatever challenge were put in his path, and adhered to the belief that one needed to be true to what one believed in.