David Hopkins

Published Thursday, 5th July 2018 in Staff news


Job title: Dean of the SRUC’s Central Faculty. Location: Edinburgh.

What does your role at SRUC involve?

My role is one of three new Dean positions at SRUC, with each of us providing academic leadership for a different regional of the SRUC. I bring to the role leadership in education and research in the agriculture, applied life sciences and environmental sciences.

I have previously been Director of Science at the then Scottish Crop Research Institute at Dundee before its merger to form the James Hutton Institute, Head of the School at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and most recently Dean of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Royal Agricultural University at Cirencester.

My current role is includes oversight of leading research programmes, further and higher education courses across several campuses, not to mention an equestrian centre and a golf course. That said, at Heriot-Watt, I did have the unique experience of being the only UK university professor with responsibility for a brewery and a distillery!

Why is your role important to SRUC?

At SRUC I’ll be part of the team, like all other members of the organisation, working to develop and put into operation SRUC’s new strategy. In the Central region of SRUC, we have plenty to build on and there is a great opportunity to link further and higher education, research and innovation, and professional training and engagement.

Based on experience in other organisations with strong industry or sector-facing missions, I can see how SRUC is uniquely placed to succeed in this area.

What have you most enjoyed about working at SRUC?

Well, it is early days, but re-connecting with colleagues in Scotland and seeing SRUC show-casing itself at the recent Royal Highland Show was a pretty good start for me.

What have been the highlights of working at SRUC?

My background as a soil scientist and my academic and research has given me great opportunities to travel and work in remote and sometime extreme environments. Although some of my work has an obvious agricultural focus, I also have special interests in deserts. This has included research in both the extreme polar cold deserts of Antarctica and the Arctic, as well as the hot deserts especially in Africa, and I have used the one of the research in Namibia as a venue for student field classes – much to their satisfaction.

I am currently an international collaborator in an ambitious initiative, the African Soil Microbiology Network, which involves genomics studies across much of Africa. The first results from this project will be reviewed at a meeting in South Africa next month, and given the recent Edinburgh weather, the data may become more relevant than we first imagined!

What are you most looking forward to over the next 6 months?

Getting on with it!

What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t at work?

I am lucky because my jobs have given me many great travel opportunities and in addition, I have renewed my SRU season ticket – some may say this is evidence of questionable judgement, but things are looking better now than they have for a long time!


We’re looking for staff to speak to us about their role for future staff profiles – it provides you the chance to share your successes and highlights, while showing other staff the variety of work undertaken within the organisation. Get in contact via communications@sruc.ac.uk if you would like to be featured, or if you would like to nominate a colleague to be included next month.

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