Tribute to Sir David Watson

Thursday, 12 February 2015

David Watson when he was Deputy Director of Oxford Polytechnic

Sir David Watson, one of the UK’s leading higher education academics sadly passed away on Sunday 8 February after a short illness aged 65.

Knighted in 1998 for his services to the higher education sector, Sir David Watson was part of Oxford Brookes before it became a university. For nine years from 1981-1990 he was Dean and then Deputy Director of Oxford Polytechnic where he championed the development of the modular course.  He described Oxford’s innovative curriculum in his first book about higher education Managing the modular course: Perspectives from Oxford Polytechnic (1989).

Alistair Fitt, Vice Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University said:  “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Sir David Watson.  He was an influential and dynamic figure in the higher education sector, with a number of accolades and achievements to his name.  He joined us in the early 1980’s during the much loved ‘poly-years.’   

“Sir David enriched the lives of thousands of students and colleagues throughout his career, and the comments and tributes coming through since the news of his death are a clear testament to how well respected and admired he was.  Although Sir David left shortly before we became Oxford Brookes University in 1992, we were fortunate that he remained a great friend and continued supporter of ours for which we will always be grateful.”

About Sir David

Since 2010 Sir David had been the principal of the University of Oxford’s Green Templeton College.  During his four years at the college, Sir David, along with Vice-Principal Ingrid Lunt, oversaw the development of its Advanced Studies Centre which opened early last year and provides learning spaces for postgraduate students.

Prior to this Sir David was Professor of Higher Education Management at the Institute of Education, University of London from 2005 to 2010, and led the University of Brighton to gaining university status in 1992, continuing as vice-chancellor for another 13 years.

We were fortunate that he remained a great friend and continued supporter of ours for which we will always be grateful.

Alistair Fitt, Vice Chancellor

Sir David’s scholarly life began at Clare College, Cambridge, where he read history. He was later a Thouron scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, where in 1975 he was awarded a doctorate in intellectual history.

Throughout his career he contributed widely to developments in UK higher education, including as a member of the Council for National Academic Awards (1977-1993), the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council (1988-92) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (1992-96).

He was also a member of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, chaired by Sir Ron Dearing, whose report Higher Education in the Learning Society was published in 1997, and chaired the Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning, co-authoring its report, Learning Through Life, in 2009.

He served as chair of the Universities Association for Continuing Education between 1994 and 1998, and was president of the Society for Research into Higher Education between 2005 and 2012. He was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2008.

In 2009 Sir David was awarded the THE Lord Dearing Lifetime Achievement Award.

His funeral will be a private affair for family and close friends. A celebration of his life will take place in Oxford later this year.

More about Sir David Watson’s life can be read in the announcement on THE website.

Read the announcement by Green Templeton College.