We are very sad to announce the death of our colleague for many years, Dr Paul McCombie, Senior Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering within the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering. Paul died suddenly on Christmas Eve 2020 having taken early retirement only 16 months previously.

Paul was part of the Department for almost 30 years, having joined in 1990. He originally studied Engineering at Cambridge University followed by an MSc in Soil Mechanics at Imperial College. He joined the University of Bath in 1990 where his uncompromising educational style was a fixture until he retired. He epitomised the ethos of facilitating student learning rather than teaching, which set students up for a life-time of learning. His final year Geotechnics exams were legendary, but he was never happier than when outside, come rain or shine, helping students learn surveying, or studying geology and soils on the annual field course.

He oversaw many changes within the Department, and growth of the Civil Engineering group in particular. Paul underpinned the successful evolution of the Civil Engineering programmes over the years in his various roles; as Director of Studies, Admissions Tutor and Deputy Head of the Department. He was a strong advocate of the Joint Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, and truly believed in the benefits of teaching the two disciplines together. He was also involved in engineering education more widely, ensuring design and sustainability became a core part of Civil Engineering studies across the UK. He co-authored a Royal Academy of Engineering report on Centres of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design, promoting the benefits of investing in education in sustainable design for engineers and architects. Latterly, he became actively involved in the Association of Civil Engineering Departments, continuing even after retirement.

His research was diverse and eclectic. He successfully gained his PhD in 2009 and concentrated his research efforts on the things that he enjoyed and thought worthwhile. He was particularly proud of the work he did on the stability of dry-stone retaining walls which led to the publication of the book ‘Drystone Retaining Walls: Design, Construction and Assessment’. His final journal publication, studying the dynamic behaviour of bell towers, combined his love of bell ringing and fundamental engineering mechanics.

He will be remembered by his colleagues, students, and graduates, many of whom he remained in contact with, with great fondness and immense respect. Our thoughts are with his wife, Heather, his children and his wider family and friends.

Funeral details

Paul's funeral will be held on Thursday 21st January at 1.45 p.m. Due to Covid restrictions the funeral will be webcast and can be viewed at the time, or for 28 days afterwards (there may be a delay of a couple of days after 21st while the server is switched to allow continued viewing).

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Donations in memory of Paul, if desired can be made to:

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at The Princes Trust


British Dalmatian Welfare

sent c/o

Iles & Vincent Funeral Services,14 The Cornmarket, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 9BX

Telephone: 01985 220161