The incoming Dean of Kingston University’s Faculty of Engineering, Computing and the Environment has highlighted the crucial role higher education has to play in ensuring advances in technology are harnessed for the benefit of society.
Professor Amir Alani, who will also become a Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University when he takes up his post leading the newly formed Faculty, said building and embedding strong links with industry would be central to his approach as Dean. It would also help ensure the Faculty’s graduates, who were destined to be the decision makers of the future, were best placed to improve the world around them, he said.
“Providing a vibrant environment enriched by the interaction between teaching and learning, research, enterprise and business gives all students and staff a true sense of purpose and direction,” Professor Alani said. “Kingston University has a strong legacy in engineering, computing and technology and the opportunity to grow its reputation in areas that have such a huge impact across society really enthuses me.”
An active researcher with extensive experience working across higher education and industry, Professor Alani is taking up his new post after serving as Executive Dean of the School of Computing and Engineering at the University of West London. During eight years there, he expanded its size and research output with a core focus on students’ progression in to employment. He also established the institution’s Faringdon Centre for Non-Destructive Testing, which engages in pioneering infrastructure research.
An expert in the assessment and maintenance of major infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels, highways and buildings, he is held in high regard across the sector. He has published more than 250 journal, conference and consultancy reports and abstracts and worked with professional bodies across the United Kingdom and Europe. “Transferring knowledge to others and ensuring future generations benefit from our experience has always motivated me and academia is one of the best places to achieve that,” Professor Alani said.
Exploring the synergies that exist throughout the new Kingston University Faculty’s two Schools – the School of Engineering and the Environment and the School of Computing and Mathematics – is something Professor Alani is particularly looking forward to. He is eager to replicate the success of such areas as the University’s Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security and its Centre for Augmented and Virtual Reality Environments and further develop established relationships with a range of industry partners.
Born into a family of engineers, Professor Alani completed a PhD at the University of Science and Technology of Montpellier. Returning to the United Kingdom in 1986, he went on to lecture at London South Bank University, the University of Derby and University of Portsmouth, where he was appointed Head of the School of Mechanical, Manufacturing and Design Engineering. In 2009, he took up a Head of Department position at the University of Greenwich, before moving to the University of West London in 2014.
Fostering an environment in which new frontiers in research and development can be explored and working with industry to enact positive change are key to Professor Alani’s vision, with students always at the heart of his work. “My own research, especially during the past 15 years, has focused on bringing theoretical knowledge and analytical capabilities to solving major problems,” he said. “Where there is a problem, there is a solution – and usually a very good one.
“When I speak to new students or recent graduates, I remind them of our collective responsibilities to our planet. Our job is to provide the best possible education and the tools for them to succeed. Theirs is to go out and contribute to improving the world around them and protect our global environment.”
Welcoming Professor Alani’s appointment, Kingston University Vice-Chancellor Professor Steven Spier said the new Faculty stood to benefit significantly from his track record as an accomplished engineering educator. “Professor Alani’s experience as an academic, researcher and practitioner will be an asset as we strengthen our focus on technology, which is a key imperative both for the government and University,” Professor Spier said. “Under his leadership, I am confident we will make significant strides in instilling skills for innovation in our students and boosting the impact of our research and knowledge exchange activity, all of which are vital as we work to meet rapidly evolving industry and employer needs and contribute to reinvigorating the national economy.”