ONE of the UK’s longest-serving vice-chancellors has announced that he will be retiring at the end of 2019, aged 69, after more than two decades at the helm of the University of Chester

Professor Tim Wheeler broke the news to staff, speaking in his new year message of the 'pleasure and privilege' of being first the institution’s principal, then its first vice-chancellor.

Professor Wheeler is married with three daughters and one grand-daughter and enjoys music, theatre and the arts.

Under professor Wheeler’s leadership, the university secured Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) in 2003, full university status in 2005 and Research Degree Awarding Powers (RDAP) in 2007.

During his tenure, the number of students has risen from 4,000 to 18,300 with a further 2,400 students gaining University of Chester accredited qualifications at partner institutions across the UK and the world.

The university now provides employment for around 1,550 staff directly, compared with under 500 in 1998, and helps sustain 3,000 more jobs regionally.

Professor Wheeler, who has served for 21 years, said: “It has been a great privilege and pleasure to lead a team that has achieved so much in a relatively short period of time in establishing the University of Chester in its current form.”

Professor Wheeler has ensured the University has retained its liberal arts provision and mission to promote students to pursue public service, while developing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and support of the professions.

All of Cheshire’s police officers and most of its teachers and nurses are now trained at the university, which also provides teacher education and nursing degrees in the Isle of Man, teacher education in North Wales and nursing education in Jersey.

Professor Wheeler is currently engaged in the establishment of the University’s medical school.

The Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, president of University Council, said: “On behalf of the Council of the University, I would express our deep appreciation for Professor Wheeler’s leadership of the university for more than 20 years.

"It has been a period of very successful development and expansion, which has been a blessing to the many thousands of students who have graduated, and also to the wider communities which the university seeks to serve.

“We look forward to the appointment of a worthy successor as vice-chancellor, and a careful period of transition to new leadership. We wish Professor Wheeler every blessing on his retirement.”