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30th Anniversary: “This University gave me a life-long career”

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Published on 27 September 2022

Professor David Baglee - then and now!
Professor David Baglee - then and now!

When David Baglee finished O-Levels and started a career in car after-sales - little could he have predicted 30 years later he would head up the University of Sunderland’s engineering department and cement a global reputation for his research in advanced maintenance.

It was just pure coincidence the same year Sunderland Polytechnic became a University in 1992 that David was heading back to his native north-east after working with Citroen in Hertfordshire.

Not sure what he wanted to do with his career at age 26, but always harboring a desire to study a degree as well as looking to draw on his commercial skills, he successfully applied for a business degree as a mature student, marking the start of his association with Sunderland.

“It was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and one which gave me a life-long career with the University,” explained David.

“I absolutely loved the degree and studied in the old campus buildings - Langholme Tower, Ashburne, and Thornholme. But in my final year, having watched the building of the new St Peter’s Campus, I ended up being part of the first students to study in Reg Vardy building, there were a few teething problems with the IT with it in those very early days, but it was a great place to work in.”

As the first person to graduate in his family, with his proud parents, Brian and Sheila, looking on as he walked onto the stage at the Sunderland Empire in 1995, David then worked in marketing for a forklift truck company. However, the pull back to the university was always there and he returned in 1999 to complete a master's degree in computer-based information systems. 

By 2000 he’d attracted the attention of staff in the computing department who asked if he’d considered lecturing and marking. And in 2001 he was once again asked by senior staff to consider applying to study a funded PHD in engineering.

During the PhD, he helped to write a European project with his then supervisor Professor John MacIntyre, who is now Pro Vice-Chancellor with the University’s International team.

Graduating four years later in 2005, the doors to a number of other similar local, national and international projects then opened which David would co-write, including two European Framework programmes. The Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development, are funding programmes created by the European Union/European Commission to support and foster research in the European Research Area (ERA).

David also joined the University’s Institute for Automotive and Advanced Manufacturing Practice (AMAP) at this time.

His research has always included advanced maintenance management strategies, condition-monitoring technologies and advanced manufacturing techniques and technologies to support maintenance strategy development; this includes Big Data systems, Industry 4 and the use of Virtual Reality to design new manufacturing systems. 

He now has written more than 150 conference and international journal publications, 15 invited and keynote presentations and four book chapters

In 2019, David became a Professor of Advanced Maintenance, and head of the School of Engineering, he is also a Visiting Professor of Operations and Maintenance at the University of Lulea in Sweden and a Visiting Research Professor at the University of Maryland USA.

He has worked with large multi-national companies including Nissan, Volvo, Seat, Fiat, BP and many other research and academic institutions.

Asked what the last 30 years have meant to Professor Baglee, he says: “There has just always been a draw to keep me here. The people I have met and the support I’ve had has always kept me here.” 

And what is he most proud of over the past three decades?

“Achieving my PhD was just incredibly special,” the father-of-two says. 

Adding: “Without a doubt, some of those students I saw progress onto amazing careers, I’m so proud to have played a small part in shaping their future. I really look forward to shaping even more careers in the same way.

“Engineering is a fantastic career, and we are very much now in the digital age, which is reflected across our programmes and the investment we are making.”


What else is happening to celebrate the anniversary?

There is a special exhibition at Sunderland Creatives Gallery, National Glass Centre.  

Local artist and illustrator, Kathryn Robertson, tells the story of key moments of the University’s history by interpreting diverse stories from students, staff and the wider University community. 

Storytellers include Fulwell 73 Director Leo Pearlman, crime fiction writer Ann Cleeves and local businesswoman Dame Irene Hayes. The completed mural forms part of the exhibition and family activities.

Sunderland Illustrated: Celebrating 30 years of The University of Sunderland is now open to the public until 11 December 2022.