Waikato University vice-chancellor Professor Roy Crawford will retire at the end of this year after 10 years in the role.
He is only the fourth vice-chancellor in the university's 50-year existence.
The university's chancellor and former prime minister, Jim Bolger, has paid tribute to Crawford, saying he helped the institution consolidate then shine on the world stage.
"Under Prof Crawford's leadership, we have seen our university move into the top 2 per cent of universities around the world, including being named in the top 50 of the young universities in the world, and in the top 50 in terms of our international outlook," Bolger said in a statement.
Crawford has played a key role in focusing the university on an excellence agenda, Bolger said, and delivering teaching and research outcomes that helped address major issues facing the world today.
"Throughout his tenure Prof Crawford has emphasised the importance of having excellent staff and providing them with world-class facilities so that they can compete successfully on the international stage." Crawford said he was proud to have led an innovative and committed organisation. "It really has been an honour and a privilege," he said.
"I am constantly amazed by the talent and expertise we have at the University of Waikato," he said.
"It means we are able to make a difference - in the way we educate and encourage our students, in the research we conduct, and to the region and nation."
Crawford said leading an organisation with more than 12,000 students and nearly 2000 staff that contributed nearly $1 billion to the national economy would be an attractive prospect for a new vice-chancellor.
- Waikato Times
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