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Peter Scott

Peter Scott

Areas of Interest


Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, 1998


Professor Sir Peter Scott is Professor of Higher Education Studies at the UCL Institute of Education and Chair of the Council of the University of Gloucestershire. From 1998 to 2010 he was Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University, and from 2000 to 2006 a member of the board of the Higher Education Funding Council for England. After reading History at Merton College, Oxford, he began his career as a leader writer at the Times. In 1976 he became Editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement and remained so until his appointment in 1992 as Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Policy Studies in Education at the University of Leeds. He was later appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor for External Affairs at Leeds. In 1997 he took over as Vice-Chancellor at Kingston. Professor Scott has published a number of books on the subject of governance and management of higher education institutions, including University Leadership: The Role of the Chief Executive (2000) and Re-Thinking Science: Knowledge Production in an Age of Uncertainties (2001). He is a Member of the Academia Europea and of the Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences. He was knighted at the New Year's Honours, 2006.

In 1998 Sir Peter Scott was made an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy.


"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in recommending the award of an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy to Professor Peter Scott.

This award is made in recognition of Professor Scott's outstanding achievements as a writer, policy analyst and institutional leader in the field of higher education, both in Britain and overseas.

After reading History at Merton College, Oxford, Professor Scott became a highly respected leader writer on The Times (in its pre-Murdoch days) and then, for 16 years, editor of The Times Higher Education Supplement which, under his leadership, provided accurate regular and critical analyses of what he himself has described as 'a turbulent but exhilarating period of growth' in higher education. Professor Scott has characterised this period - from the 1970s to the 1990s - as one of rapid expansion, of changing patterns of student support, of new funding systems and of the end of the binary system. He stimulated national (and international) debate by raising such important questions as 'is the ending of the binary system a vote of confidence in the former polytechnics?' (and implicitly, a vote of no confidence in the traditional universities?). Does expansion in higher education represent new and challenging democratic possibilities or a levelling down of standards? Will there be a new deal for the new universities in terms of enhanced resources and more equitable funding or will there be a much 'starker stratification' between research universities and mainly teaching institutions? However, whilst welcoming Professor Scott's important insights into and clear-headed views of the changing landscape of higher education, perhaps the anxious academic world during the Thatcher years has most reason for being grateful to Professor Scott for his whole-hearted adoption of the Laurie Taylor column in the THES. This is arguably his greatest management achievement to date. Here our pretensions are gently mocked and the ever-increasing demands of the educational quangos are fiercely satirised. As arguably the leading educational journalist of his day, Professor Scott significantly influenced national agendas in a paper respected for its accuracy, probity and wisdom, which has presented a very high and formidable benchmark for his successor to follow.

Whilst adopting a proactive role in the continuing and often acidic dialogue about the glorious past, fraught present and uncertain future of British higher education, Professor Scott has also maintained a strong interest and profile in higher education internationally. He was a visiting scholar in the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, and he wrote persuasively about the American Community College before many in the UK had even heard of it. He has analysed higher education in Sweden on behalf of their National Board for Universities and Colleges and has addressed numerous international conferences for a wide variety of organisations including the European Association for International Education and The Council for International Educational Exchange on issues such as the crisis of the university, the idea of the university in the 21st century, and international dimensions of mass higher education. He has even had the temerity to produce a paper entitled 'Scottish Higher Education Regained: Accident Or Design' although, as far as we can discover, he has no plans for anything similar for Wales.

Professor Scott left the THES in 1992 to institutionalise his academic pedigree as Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Policy Studies in Education at the University of Leeds where he established himself as one of the UK's most influential and perceptive analysts of higher education in a different setting to that of THES. Professor Scott has been particularly concerned to analyse the policy implications of the growth of mass higher education especially, but not exclusively, in this country. He has argued that "mass, unlike elite, higher education cannot be summed up in one single totalising idea". Instead, "it has plural meanings, being one of a series of multiple modernisation - of society, economy, culture and science as well as the academy". Mass higher education is, for Professor Scott, "an ambiguous, diverse and volatile phenomenon" which, nevertheless, may be recognised by the identification of two primary characteristics of mass systems: their reflexivity and their openness. He maintains that mass higher education is reflexive in the sense that much of its agenda is determined by the professional activities of its own staff of experts and it is open in the sense that its values and practices are shaped through an active partnership between the academy and its community. For Professor Scott, too, mass higher education links modernity and modernisation and builds a bridge between instrumentality and morality.

Whilst at Leeds, the prophet, seer, pundit and preacher developed as an academic leader and Professor Scott was appointed as Pro Vice Chancellor for External Affairs, a position which helped prepare him for his current appointment of Vice Chancellor at Kingston University, 1997. The educational preacher (if that is what a policy analyst is) must now put his theoretical understanding of higher education into practice. Professor Scott's most recent publication "Governing Universities: Changing the Culture?" offers, amongst other delights, discussions of professional versus managerial values, universities as bureaucracies and universities as political, cybernetic and entrepreneurial systems. Overall, however, Professor Scott argues powerfully that "mass universities elitely governed will not work" and he concludes that the 21st century will require that university governing bodies should be more representative of their community and their customers in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, occupational background and cultural capital and that the principle and practices of democratic, open government should be applied to university governance. No doubt his skilled analysis and persuasive punditry is even now a continuing source of illumination in the halls of Kingston University!

It is therefore, Vice Chancellor, because of Professor Scott's considerable reputation as journalist, internationalist, policy analyst and educational leader that I invite you to confer on Professor Peter Scott an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy of this University."