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John Ainsworth OBE

John Ainsworth

Areas of Interest


Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of the University, 2006


John Ainsworth is a Chartered Secretary by profession and recently retired as Chief Executive and Secretary of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators after eighteen year in post. Before this, he studied at the University of London, Goldsmiths' College and the City of London Business School. He commenced his career as Assistant Clerk to the Governors and Bursar of Dulwich College and went on to accumulate an immense wealth of experience as a high level administrator in the Central Electricity Generation Board and the British Transport Docks Board, before becoming Secretary and Finance Director of the British Printing Industries Federation and Secretary General of the Institute of Administrative Management. In parallel with these activities, he is currently Chairman of the Open and Distance Learning Quality Council; Council Member and Board Director, Commonwealth Association for Corporate Governance; former Chairman of the Consultative Council for Professional Management Organisations and former Chairman of a number of ICSA companies engaged in computer software, publishing, seminar and corporate services. John is also involved in a number of organisations concerned with professional standards. He was appointed OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2008.

In 2006 John Ainsworth was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University.


The Senate of Anglia Ruskin University has great pleasure in recommending the award of an Honorary Doctorate of the University to Mervyn John Ainsworth, Dip Ed, FCIS, F Inst. AM, DBA, in acknowledgement of his singularly significant contribution to administration and corporate governance spread throughout a wide swathe of economic activity across the world and most recently through his role as Chief Executive and Secretary of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.

John’s early schooling took place at Stanfields Technical High School in Stoke-on-Trent, after which he studied at London University’s Goldsmith’s College and then at the City of London Business School. He gained a Certificate in Education, followed by a Diploma in Education, after which he qualified as a Chartered Secretary and then a Fellow of the Institute of Administrative Management. Sometime later he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Administrative Managers and was award an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration from Bournemouth University, in 1997. More recently he has been made a Freeman and Liveryman, then Court Assistant of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators and earlier this year he was appointed as an Honorary Member of the UK’s foremost vocational awarding body; City and Guilds, London. 

John climbed the first rung of his career ladder on appointment as Assistant Clerk to the Governors and Bursar at the Dulwich College Foundation, which included the administration of two Public Schools, a Direct Grant Grammar School and the Dulwich College Pictures Gallery and Chapel in South London. This was followed by his moving on to become Principal Assistant at the Overseas Relations Department at the (CEGB) Central Electricity Generating Board. Here, he was initially involved in the planning and execution of intelligence gathering programmes for visitors from foreign electricity undertakings, in order to promote the CEGB’s international standing and to encourage their adoption of British technology. He soon became familiar with the intricacies of power generation, was promoted and moved to the Board’s mainstream activities as Senior Committee Secretary, in the Secretary and Solicitors Department. Here, he acted as Secretary to the UK Nuclear Operations Committee and other committees ranging from the CEGB Executive Board to a Boiler Design Panel, additionally being appointed by the Secretary of State to act as Secretary to Boards of Inquiry and receiving commendations in connection with two such Inquiries. As his experience and responsibility grew, he organised the CEGB’s presentation to the Royal Commission on Energy and was appointed Manager of the Committee Services Department. However, he then opted for a significant change of direction by becoming Secretarial Assistant and Manager of Secretariat Services at the BTDB (British Transport Docks Board) which is responsible for the operation of nineteen ports in the UK, including the major port groups of Southampton, South Wales and Humberside. His wide ranging duties included servicing meetings of the Docks Board, Regional Advisory Boards, Managing Director’s Committee and lecturing at the BTDB Staff College on the role and activities of the Docks Board. In yet a further career move, John became Assistant Secretary and later Secretary and Directors of Finance at the British Printing Industries Federation, the employers’ organisation and trade association for five thousand member firms across the UK. He played a leading and important role during a lengthy industrial dispute as Independent Secretary to a Review Body, using his significant powers of diplomacy which led ultimately, to a total reorganisation across the country. Nevertheless, in 1984 he took up a further, new challenge as Secretary General of the Institute of Administrative Management (though later designated Chief Executive) and totally transformed this seventy year old, international but moribund organisation into a modern state-of-the-art 21st century examining body. Ever ready for a challenge, John next took up yet a further new post of Chief Executive and Secretary at ICSA (the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators) in mid-crisis, on  the verge of bankruptcy and having lost its way professionally. Then, over the following years another success story unfolded: ICSA is, today, the leading professional body in corporate governance, financially viable and  renown for leading the corporate governance movement across the world. John is also Chairman of the Open and Distance Leaning Quality Council, a Director of the Commonwealth Association for Corporate Governance, Chairman of the Consultative Council of Management Organisations and has been a director of over thirty companies.

As you have heard, this man has accumulated a truly immense wealth of business experience, which he has carefully blended with his unique gifts as a top level administrator. Here is a man who relishes the seemingly most intractable challenges and transforms them into success, through hard work, through diplomacy and through personal charisma that brings out the best in those around him. He is, indeed, a giant among men, truly a name to be remembered. It is for these reasons, therefore, that I now ask the Chairman of the Anglia Ruskin Board of Governors, Colin Day to confer the award.

On behalf of Senate, I exercise the authority of Senate and confer the award of Honorary Doctorate of the University, honoris causa on Mervyn John Ainsworth.”