A leading academic at Edinburgh Napier University has become the UK’s only Professor of Festival and Event Management.

Dr Jane Ali Knight was awarded her professorship two weeks ago after passing a rigorous panel of eight fellow academics, which included the university’s Principal and Vice Principal.

She was invited to apply for the promotion by the university and had to put together a portfolio of evidence demonstrating her professional practice in a range of areas – including teaching, research and industry engagement.

Dr Ali Knight, who says she was ‘too scared’ to open the letter after narrowly missing out two years ago, said she was ‘absolutely chuffed’ to have reached the required standard this time.

She said: “I really wasn’t expecting it so it came as a bit of a surprise. I was really reluctant to open the letter; I thought I was going to be really miserable if I didn’t get it.

“But it’s really great news, I’m delighted, especially to be the only female professor of festival and event management in the UK. There are only a few other women professors in the UK in Events, but not combined with festivals, as we have that relationship with the festivals in Edinburgh.

She says: “It was quite an arduous process but it’s really great recognition and also hopefully inspiring to other people and academics. Think it is a great recognition of how our programme and the industry has developed over the last 15 yrs.”

She added: “I arrived in Scotland in 2002 as a lowly lecturer with no PhD and we launched our festivals degree with 5 students in 2003. I think it is a great recognition of how our programme and the industry has developed over the last 15 yrs.”

Unfortunately, Dr Ali Knight received the news as she was about to embark on a week-long yoga camp in Spain, where the emphasis was on detox rather than partying.

“I couldn’t even have a drink to celebrate,” she laments.

But she is hoping to use the new position to further engage with industry, speak at professional conferences and to seek visiting professorships at universities in the UK and overseas.

Dr Ali Knight puts her success this year down to a number of factors including the university having launched an innovative new qualification, the UK’s first MSc in Business Events.

She said: “I think it was really well timed this year. We’ve won a few awards for some of our projects and obviously the Business Events qualification [has helped].”

She added: “I’d like to do some good with it. It would be nice if it helped inspire other women; I’d maybe like to go on and do some mentoring young female academics.”

Professor Joe Goldblatt, of Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, is the only events professor in Scotland but his role is focused on ‘planned events’ and not festivals.