Conferment of Emeritus Professor, Open University

Graduation 28 June 2000,  Reply to conferment

Vice-Chancellor, members of the Open University and guests:

Thank you very much, Roland, for those kind words. It is rather chastening to hear your career set out like that - inevitably being a bit economical with the truth, but so what - to-day of all days, we graduands are entitled to feel rather expansive.

For me it has been a great privilege to work in higher education. Since my research field is the analysis of organizations and how they function, I am keenly aware of the large amount of intellectual and behavioural autonomy which academics are allowed compared with those who work in businesses, government agencies, and other enterprises. Apart from my first apprentice projects, I have always done the research that I have wanted to do, choosing the work that I felt worth doing and where I could hope to make an impact. I am most appreciative of this degree of freedom. Of course it may not seem so attractive to Vice-Chancellors who have to try and manage a band of self-opinionated and fractious professors. But that's why they are so good at ducking and weaving.

I said I have 'worked' in universities. But if, as in economics, work is defined as 'activity undertaken for financial reward' I have hardly worked at all. I have done what I wanted to do and, goodness, at the end of the month they paid me a salary for doing it! I came from a regular university to Milton Keynes - which I can best describe as the OU's course writing factory. It was very strange to me as a central academic not to meet and interact with students except once a year at summer schools. I thought it obvious that I should tutor courses as well, so that I could discover at first hand how educationally effective they were. And then I found out that for me to do that they had had to appoint me to a second job in the OU as an Associate Lecturer - and they paid me an extra salary!

I am very proud that in my time in the University, I tutored every course, which I had helped write as a member of the Course Team, and I think of myself not only as an Emeritus Professor but as an Emeritus Associate Lecturer too. Now my contact is with doctoral students, helping to launch them on research careers. I am very pleased that one of my research students graduated PhD this morning and you will have seen me express my delight.

It has been a special privilege for me to be in such an innovative institution as the Open University that has pioneered the educational methods that will characterise the 21st century. So may I finish by congratulating to-day's graduates (and myself) on participating so successfully in the education of the future.

Thank you.

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