He returned to Coventry Polytechnic in 1984 to take up an appointment as a lecturer. During the next 30 years, as the polytechnic became a university and began to develop its unique place in the UK HE Sector, John was increasingly entrusted with business-critical decisions and responsibilities within Coventry University’s growing commercial portfolio of subsidiary companies.
During his first decade on the staff he undertook many influential industry secondments and national appointments, including directorship of the UK Animation and Dissemination Unit under contract to the UK Department of Employment. In his role as Head of Training Consultancy for Coventry University 1992-1995 he was influential in pioneering new approaches to vocational training, working with diverse partners regionally, nationally and internationally, including provision of training for ex-army officers in Russia and the Ukraine.
By 1999 he had been appointed as Director of Commercial Affairs for Coventry University Enterprises Ltd. His major legacy from this period was leading the transformation of a 24 acre brownfield site, close to Coventry City centre, into a thriving Technology Park, currently valued at £60M. The support team of over 150 front-facing staff remains the largest dedicated unit of its type in the UK. This achievement has had a profound impact on the local and regional economy, both public and private sector organisations, with especially strong input to local SMEs focusing on computing and engineering industrial applications.
His expertise and continued commitment to knowledge transfer and Continued Professional Development (CPD) led to appointments to many regional, national and international advisory boards, steering groups and committees. Between 2003 and 2010 he served as chairman of the UK Business Innovation Centres Network (BIC), established by the European Commission. During his leadership significant growth and diversification was achieved in the network and its activities. Concurrently John served as an active board member for UK Business Innovation Ltd (2004-2013) and the European Business Network (2003-2010).
In 2005 John was appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor, then later became Deputy Vice Chancellor and penultimately acting Vice Chancellor in 2013 before his current Vice Chancellorship appointment was confirmed in 2014. He continues to pursue a range of external facing activities and interests, particularly promoting computing developments; for example as founding director of Serious Games International Ltd (Singapore) from 2012 he has supported the development of a portfolio of Blue Chip clients.
In the short time since his appointment as acting Vice Chancellor, John has built a formidable team and is leading and overseeing a series of major transformational changes to Coventry University. The impact of the changes was recently reported on one national newspaper front page (Ratcliffe 2015), when the University rose to 15th in the Guardian’s league table of UK universities. This is far above the achievement of any other “post 1992” university and above many of the Russell Group and research intensive universities.
The Coventry ranking was boosted by very high scores that came from students on teaching and feedback. In April 2015 the University was awarded the Queens Award for Enterprise, specifically citing recognition of Coventry University Enterprises, the subsidiary company that John established and led for so many years. Amongst many other recent accolades, in September 2015 the University was confirmed as Modern University of the Year for the third consecutive year by Times Higher Education.
The case for service to the interests of BCS and the wider community
Clearly, Professor John Latham’s career is remarkable in many ways. He has already being feted as the first of a new breed of business-facing University CEOs (Havergal 2015, p 24). However, what was missed in this analysis is John’s background and enduring commitment to computer science and engineering. His earlier insight in developing models and structures for industrial training and CPD was crucial groundwork towards his later development of the Coventry University Technology Park. The business incubation unit within the Park has led to countless successful spin-off technology companies and innovative developments, which would have been difficult to achieve without the available support services.
As his CV demonstrates, John’s continuing contribution to a wide range of boards and committees gives him opportunities to share his knowledge and expertise nationally and internationally, for other people to learn from and build on his ideas. His 30 year career has included many roles and duties that demonstrate his commitment to public service (highlighted in yellow on the accompanying CV), including school governorships and chairing and membership of many advisory boards. His services to the IT industry have been equally impressive, (highlighted in green in his CV), applied locally, nationally and internationally.
The broad spectrum of achievements described above is to be celebrated and congratulated. We believe that the BCS should be proud to recognise John as an Honorary Fellow.
Havergal, C. (2015) Prepare administrators for Mission to the Summit, Times Higher Education, 14th May 2015, p 24.
Ratcliffe, R. (2015) University Tables: Coventry slips past Russell Group peers to enter top 20, Guardian Newspaper, 26th May 2015.