Credit: UofG

End of an era for Glasgow: Muscatelli to step down as Principal after sixteen years

By Jan Jasinski

Anton Muscatelli has transformed the University into a global institution

Sir Anton Muscatelli has announced he will be stepping down from his position as Principal and Vice-Chancellor, after 16 years in the top role. The Principal, who presided over a stormy and transformative period for the University, has had the third-longest tenure of any ancient university Principal since the mid-20th century.

A committee to find Muscatelli’s replacement has been formed, and The Glasgow Guardian understands that a new principal is to be identified over the summer, and in place by the end of September 2025.

While the Principal was originally expected to step down in 2024, the Court has extended his term by another year, while the replacement is found.

Muscatelli has changed the University, leading it through a period of dramatic growth and increased commercialisation. As Principal, he was the face of the University’s responses to significant challenges, ranging from Brexit to the pandemic.

When taking over the University in 2009, the Principal’s strategic goal was to increase the institution’s position in rankings, aiming to reach top 50. While that goal has not been accomplished, the University did climb from being in the top 100 to 150 of universities worldwide, to the top 80, in most rankings.

This was primarily achieved by a dramatic increase in the number of international students, particularly in postgraduate programs. Over the last decade alone, international students have tripled in numbers, with 76% of all postgraduate students today being from outside the UK, with that number being even higher in some courses. Overall, 43% of all students today are international, close to the 50% target Muscatelli had previously identified.

Muscatelli has previously told The Glasgow Guardian that this increased reliance on international students and the associated commercialisation was partially a result of Brexit. 

As an academic, Muscatelli has remained one of the UK’s most prominent economists, particularly in the context of Brexit, of which he has been a staunch and steadfast critic. Over the years of the Brexit negotiations, Muscatelli was one of the most prominent voices against the move, referring to it as an “extreme ideology” as well as “xenophobia and economic illiteracy,” and “the most unhinged example of national self-sabotage in living memory.”

Considering his own upbringing as an Italian Scot, he maintained his anti-Brexit position in the context of EU students in Glasgow. While Muscatelli fought to keep tuition free for European students, the Scottish government forced the University to bring back fees for Europeans. As a consequence, the numbers of EU students in Glasgow have collapsed over the last four years, and one of the last cohort of undergraduate EU students is expected to graduate this summer. Muscatelli wrote for The Glasgow Guardian of the depressing effects of the decision on how the University operates.

Throughout his term, Muscatelli has been the target of protests, particularly due to his high salary, reaching over £400,000 in the last academic year. From the Hetherington occupation in 2010, to more recent divestment protests, protesters targeted Muscatelli as the leader of the institution.

Under Muscatelli’s lead, the University acknowledged its role in the slave trade over the course of the centuries, ranging from the fact that the Gilmorehill campus was built on the estate of a slave trader, to the donations the University received over the centuries. The University set up a £20mn fund to increase awareness of its goals.

The University campus, and the West End at-large have also significantly changed over the course of Muscatelli’s term: the campus footprint has nearly doubled, as the £1bn Western Infirmary site re-development led to the creation of new, modern buildings and expanded research and learning facilities. Muscatelli had previously described these changes to The Glasgow Guardian as the creation of a new “community.” New student facilities, including an extension of the UofG Stevenson Sports building, and a redevelopment of the GUU were delivered as well.

Labour relations have experienced a significant downturn over the course of Musctalli’s term, though this was part of a larger UK-wide dispute. Strikes have become an almost yearly occurrence, going back to 2013. One of Muscatelli’s first decisions was to reorganise the old faculty structure of the University, consolidating nine faculties into four, and 45 schools into 25, which was seen as controversial by staff and students alike at the time. 

Muscatelli is a life-long Glaswegian: after finishing the High School of Glasgow, Muscatelli became a triple UofG graduate, having completed his undergraduate, Masters, and PhD at the University. He continued to become a Lecturer in Economics in 1984, and rose up the ranks until becoming Vice-Principal in 2004. After leaving for a brief stint as Principal at Heriot-Watt in 2007, he succeeded Sir Muir Russell in 2009, and became the University of Glasgow’s 50th Principal. He was reappointed in 2009 and 2017.

Muscatelli has also been identified as a key influencer in the higher education sector. Between 2017 and 2020, he was also the chair of the Russell Group, the association of research-intensive universities.

Muscatelli was knighted by the Queen in 2017, for services to economics and higher education.

In an email sent to all students and staff, Muscatelli said:

“I first set foot on our Gilmorehill campus more than forty years ago as an undergraduate and went on to do my PhD here. I became a lecturer, professor and later joined the senior management team.

“I feel fortunate and honoured to have been able to spend a great portion of my working life at the University of Glasgow and I am very grateful to the thousands of colleagues, students, alumni, partners and friends who have shaped my time here.”


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