The Tony Rich Lecture

The Impact of Universities on their Regions

I was fortunate to attend this event last week.


Richard Muir of IPPR was first to speak and drew heavily on the recent IPPR report (with a rather dodgy title): “Beyond bricks and mortar boards”. Focusing largely on the local economic impact of universities he suggested that the centralisation of economic development policy and the shutdown of the RDAs would have a real impact on regional growth. He also noted:

  • The multiplier of HE spend locally is singificant – £1m university output generates £1.38m in the wider economy
  • There is no direct relationship between economic strength and graduate retention in a region
  • Universities have a key role in facilitating the ‘innovation ecosystem’
  • The number of university start ups does appear dispiritingly small.

Muir concluded by stressing that the IPPR had lots of suggestions for ways in which universities can contribute to local economic development.

David Allen supported much of what Richard Muir had said and quoted a recent comment from Alan Langlands on the contribution of universities to growth and their place in communities. Allen noted that a recent research study had confirmed that international students at Exeter University support over 3,000 jobs in the South West. Moreover the economic impact of the university overall was more than 40 times that of the anticipated benefit of the new John Lewis store in Exeter. Unfortuantely, all the headlines go to the shop.

John Hogan described how his University was ‘hand in glove’ with the city of Newcastle. As an example he cited the huge contribution the University had made to the redevelopment of what is now a hugely popular museum in Newcastle. According to Hogan cities want everything that universities provide. Except possibly the students. In describing the links between a university and city Hogan also referred to Temple Chevallier, the improbably named first Registrar of the University of Durham. He was an extraordinary man as the Wikipedia entry shows:

Educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, he was ordained a priest in 1818. He became a Fellow of Pembroke College a year later. He was a Fellow and Tutor of Catharine Hall (St Catharine’s College, Cambridge) in 1820 and Hulsean lecturer in Divinity from 1826 to 1827.[1]

His lectures were published as Of the proofs of the divine power and wisdom derived from the study of astronomy in 1835.

That same year, Chevallier was invited to become Professor of Astronomy at the newly-founded University of Durham. A chair of Mathematics and Astronomy existed at the University of Durham between 1841–1871; Chevallier was the one to hold this post. He also served as Reader in Hebrew 1835-1871, Registrar 1835-1865, and from 1834-1835 also assisted with lectures in Divinity.

He was instrumental in establishing the Durham University Observatory (in 1839), serving as its Director for thirty years, and from which he made important observations of Jupiter’s moons and regular meteorological observations. From 1835 until his death, he also served as perpetual Parish Priest at Esh, just outside Durham, where he founded the village school and restored the church.

He also has a crater on the moon named after him. A great set of contributions.

Tony Rich is in this league. But without the beard, obviously. The speakers were followed by some warm tributes, led by Chris Cobb, to Tony’s huge contributions to higher education and to his work for AUA  and AHUA.

Tributes too to Jonathan Nicholls who ran the London Marathon to raise money in Tony’s name for cancer research at the University of Bristol. All in all a terrific event and a great deal of warmth, affection and respect for Tony’s work in the sector.

(Footnote: there were five of us tweeting at the event (you know who you are) and, bizarrely, we were all clustered together. This newly observed phenomenon has been named after Chris Hallas and #hallaslaw will be tested further at future events.)

Rich celebrations

Two ceremonies to celebrate the achievements of Dr Tony Rich

I was privileged to attend two ceremonies in February to celebrate the achievements of Tony Rich, formerly Registrar and Secretary at the University of Essex and a mentor to me for nearly 20 years. The first event was the naming of a new teaching centre at the University:

The Tony Rich Teaching Centre

Entirely appropriate given Tony’s passionate commitment to teaching and learning. The naming was followed by a wonderful ceremony further celebrating his life and work and culminating in the award of an Honorary Doctorate.

Honorary degree award

It was a really special and poingnant event and great to see such a big turnout including many former colleagues from Essex, friends and family, a number of Vice-Chancellors and Registrars and lots of people from the Colchester and the region.

As another attendee pointed out to me, universities really do this kind of event extremely well. It had just the right mix of formality, seriousness and pomp combined with informality and personal touches.

The oration paid testament not only to Tony’s career and particularly his 12 years at Essex where he had led and contributed to significant change but also his major contribution to the educational, cultural and sporting life of the town, county and region over many years. It was an outstanding list of achievements.

Among those present was Jonathan Nicholls who is raising money for the University of Bristol’s Cancer Research Fund in honour of Tony:

The London Marathon will take on an extra-special meaning for one Bristol alumnus as he aims to complete the gruelling 26 mile course in honour of the University of Bristol’s recently retired Registrar Dr Tony Rich, who is battling the disease.

Dr Jonathan Nicholls (BA 1978) has already raised nearly £10,000 in sponsorship for his efforts, which were prompted by the heartbreaking diagnosis that his close friend Dr Rich has incurable cancer.

Dr Nicholls, who works as Cambridge University’s Registrary, will be joining seven other Bristol alumni runners who are raising money for Bristol University’s Cancer Research Fund, which supports vital research into cancer prevention and treatment.

He and Dr Rich first met as administrators at the University of Warwick in the 1980s and have been close friends ever since.

Dr Rich started work as Registrar and Chief Operating Officer at the University of Bristol at the end of the 2010/11 academic year, having previously worked as the Registrar and Secretary of the University of Essex since 1999, but retired recently due to ill health.

He is now asking friends and colleagues to support Dr Nicholls as he prepares to conquer the world-famous marathon on 22 April.

Jonathan’s sponsorship page is here. Do please support him.

Overall a wonderful event celebrating an outstanding individual.