Farewell to retired Sheffield University chief Geoffrey Sims

Professor Geoffrey Sims in 1974
Professor Geoffrey Sims in 1974
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A former vice-chancellor who led Sheffield University for nearly two decades has died aged 90.

Professor Geoffrey Sims was the university's chief for 17 years until 1991, spanning a time when higher education numbers increased dramatically and the first student loans were introduced.

Prof Geoffrey Sims, vice chancellor of Sheffield University, receives a computer system for the Department of Metallurgy in October 1982

Prof Geoffrey Sims, vice chancellor of Sheffield University, receives a computer system for the Department of Metallurgy in October 1982

Many new buildings and centres were launched across the Sheffield campus during Prof Sims' tenure, particularly in the 1980s when the Octagon venue and Sir Henry Stephenson block on Mappin Street opened.

He also oversaw the establishment of the Northern Consortium - a coalition to recruit international students.

The future vice-chancellor was born in 1926 in London, and studied at the city's Imperial College in the late 1940s and early 1950s, gaining degrees in physics and mathematics, and a PhD in physics.

He worked for the General Electric Company, then the Atomic Energy Authority until 1956, when he joined Southampton University aged 36, rising up the ranks to become its deputy vice-chancellor.

The professor was recruited to Sheffield in 1974, when roughly one in seven 18-year-olds were in higher education. By the end of the 1970s, the figure fell to one in eight as university funding was cut - however, in 1990 the proportion of 18-year-olds stood at one in five, the result of a big expansion drive led by the Government of the day.

In 1989 mortgage-style loans of up to £420 were introduced to compensate for the lack of an annual increase in student grants.

Prof Sir Keith Burnett, the present vice-chancellor and president, said Prof Sims offered leadership 'through a period of great change' and maintained strong ties with the university following his retirement.

"He will be greatly missed. I will be arranging for the university flag on Western Bank to fly at half-mast on the date of his funeral as a mark of respect to him for all that he did."

Prof Sims was awarded an OBE in 1971. In Sheffield he also served as a school governor, and acted as a member of business and cultural bodies in the city.

The great-grandfather died last Saturday, August 5, leaving his wife Pamela, son Graham and daughters Patricia and Anne. A thanksgiving service will be held next Thursday, August 17, from 3.30pm at St John's Church, Ranmoor. Donations are being collected for St Luke's Hospice via funeral directors John Heath and Sons.