TRIBUTES have been paid to the former Strathclyde University principal Sir Graham Hills who has died, aged 87.

Hailed as a pioneer of Scotland's higher education sector, Sir Graham passed away in Edinburgh after a long illness.

Beginning his career as a physical chemist, he spent 18 years as professor at Southampton University.

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From 1980 to 1991, he served as principal at Strathclyde, a tenure which is considered key to the institution's development.

He was knighted for his services to education in 1988.

Dr Ronald Crawford served as the Academic Registrar for Strathclyde University during Sir Graham's principalship and the two became close friends.

He said: "Graham Hills brought style, innovation and grand purpose to the university. He was a visionary within the industry and made a distinctive contribution."

Sir Graham was also instrumental in establishing the University of the Highlands and Islands, which has 7000 students on 13 campuses.

Martin Wright, the institution's director of marketing and communication, said: "He was quite a character. As someone who had little time for convention, he had no problem throwing a pebble in a pond.

"But he was always keen to embrace new ideas."