Ever had the feeling you have been a bad boy and been summoned to meet the heidie in his dreaded study? Well, that’s how I felt when I turned up at the Aberdeen University admin building overlooking the glorious playing fields of King’s College to have a chat with Sir Ian Diamond.

He has been the principal and vice-chancellor of the university since April 1, 2010, but if ever you wanted to discover the true meaning of the corridors of power, the proud Devonian can supply the answer. After the formalities at front reception, including an absolutely essential visitor permit for your car, you are guided upstairs and told to keep going and going through fire doors to the very end.

Lo and behold, you finally reach his spacious multi-purpose room, complete with desk, seated area and a huge table round which, no doubt, manifold discussions take place on how the university is faring and new directions it must take to stay in the top flight of the world’s institutions of higher learning.

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I am pleased to report that, far from feeling intimidated, I was made to feel quite at ease by
Sir Ian, who was knighted for services to social science and higher education in 2013. ‘I was always good at mathematics,’ he says, ‘and that took me from Torquay Grammar School to the London School of Economics for my BSc in economics and MSc in statistics.’

Then came the summons from a professor whose work he admired to head across the border to Scotland’s oldest university at St. Andrews and acquire a PhD in statistics. At this point, I had to admit maths was my worst subject at school and it took me four attempts to get Lower Maths and scrape a place at Edinburgh University.

All too soon, it was time for Sir Ian to take a conference call, no doubt on a matter of great moment for the university which he clearly adores. It was also time for me to retrace my steps back through the fire doors, down the stairs and out into the blazing sunshine, casting a nostalgic eye across the wall to the rugby pitch where the game has been played for more than 140 years.

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