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Professor Mawditt with the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor
Professor Mawditt with the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor
Orator Professor Ian Jamieson
Orator Professor Ian Jamieson
Professors Mawditt and Jamieson after the ceremony
Professors Jamieson and Mawditt after the ceremony

Internal News - 27 June 2008

Honorary graduate - Professor Richard Mawditt

Oration by Professor Ian Jamieson:

The University of Bath is one of the UK’s most successful universities despite being only founded in 1966.

Richard Mawditt was there at the very beginning, following work in the finance departments of the University of Bristol and Sussex. He was appointed as Director of Finance and went on to become Secretary and Registrar of the University until he took early retirement in 1994.

It’s often said that whilst Vice-Chancellors come and go, the Registrar goes on forever. Well Richard did not quite go on forever, but he was every bit as important as an architect of the University as the various individuals who held the office of Vice-Chancellor during his reign.

There are two models of registrar: there is the model of the unseen hand making sure that the machinery of university government turns smoothly and silently. And then there is the other model. Richard was the other model. Larger than life, it was said in those early days that everything crossed his desk at least once. I suspect that nobody who ever met Richard in his role as Secretary and Registrar ever forgot it. I certainly did not.

But to make one’s mark as successful Secretary and Registrar in a young university climbing up the league tables is one thing, to become a figure on the national stage, yet alone the international stage, is quite another. There was always something of the academic about Richard, and I use this as a term of praise.

Not only was Richard a distinguished university administrator in practice, but he understood the changing face of university administration and the changing face of universities. He was the founder of the Conference of University Administrators in the UK from 1976-1979, and then chair of the International Council of University Administrators from 1981–1989. He became increasingly sought out as a seminal figure in the world of university administration who could talk about leading edge practice and who could theorise and model it in innovative ways.

His international profile grew quickly, particularly in sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean where to this day Richard Mawditt is still a well respected figure. You can see the cunning of the man here: these were places which were crying out for Richard’s expertise, but they were also largely sunny and were places where important cricket and rugby matches were played. Visits were often timed accordingly.

Richard eventually crossed that administrative–academic divide by giving up being Secretary and Registrar and admitting that all along he had been an academic. Quite a few people move from being academics to administration, few are talented enough to make the journey the other way, and Richard Mawditt is one of them.

Richard became a member of Bath’s School of Management and as one of his first acts founded a new degree: a professional doctorate in Higher Education Management. It was immediately successful, attracting leading administrators and academics from around the world. It generated its first graduate in 2000 and today is well on its way to becoming the programme of choice if you are a potential high flyer in higher education management. In recognition of his work in higher education, particularly in Africa, Richard was awarded the UNESCO chair in Higher Education Management, and this in addition to the OBE award in 1989 for his services to higher education.

Universities are usually important places in their local communities, and university leaders also often leave their mark there, and so too with Richard. I have already hinted at sporting interests, fitting for a man who oversaw the initial development of Bath as a leading sports university. The sport of the West Country as you know is rugby football, and Richard was chair of Bath Rugby Football club during some of its most illustrious years. He also has very strong links with Millfield School the UK’s leading sports school, chairing the Millfield Foundation.

Distinguished people who retire early usually become even more active on retirement. The notion of retirement and Richard Mawditt are not concepts that sit easily together. Richard is still an important figure in the University, still a tireless contributor to the academic programme which he founded, and still a figure of considerable influence and importance in the local community.

Chancellor, I present to you Professor Richard Mawditt who is eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.