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Obituary: Professor Sir Graham Hills

Birkbeck Fellow and Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Strathclyde

Visionary university leader Professor Sir Graham Hills won a scholarship to his local grammar school but left with the equivalent of O-levels when his family were bombed out of their home during the Second World War.

He had to take work as a laboratory assistant at chemical company May and Baker, from where he gained practical experience of industry that informed his academic career. Colleagues encouraged him to enrol at Birkbeck, and despite the College being hit in bombing raids, he completed his BSc in Chemistry in 1946 and received his PhD from Birkbeck in 1950. The experience led to him becoming a persuasive advocate for widening access to higher education.

A lecturing post at Imperial College was followed in 1962 by a Chair in Physical Chemistry at the University of Southampton. He later became the university's Deputy Vice-Chancellor before being appointed to Strathclyde as Principal and Vice-Chancellor in 1980. His academic achievements were recognised with a knighthood in 1988 and through many fellowships and honorary degrees. He was made a Birkbeck Fellow in 1984.