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Lord John Eatwell: oration

Read Professor Nick Pearce's oration on Lord John Eatwell for the honorary degree of Doctor of Policy Research and Practice in December 2022


Lord Eatwell
Lord Eatwell

Vice-Chancellor, Lord John Eatwell is an internationally acclaimed economist who has made a distinguished contribution to the intellectual, political and cultural life of the United Kingdom.

Lord Eatwell was born and adopted in 1945. ‘Being adopted by two wonderful people’, he has said, endowed him with ‘a permanent feeling of being lucky.’ He attended the Headlands Grammar School in Swindon and as a boy, his ambition was to drive a steam train on the Great Western Railway (he was, and remains, a great admirer of Isambard Kingdom Brunel). Instead, he became an economist, pursuing his undergraduate studies at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he was greatly inspired by his supervisor, Ajit Singh, and the lectures of Joan Robinson. His most memorable moment as an undergraduate was not in the lecture hall, however, but on the rugby pitch, playing for his college alongside the great Mike Gibson of Ireland and the British Lions.

He subsequently won a Kennedy Scholarship to Harvard University, and embarked upon his academic career, teaching economics and finance at the University of Cambridge as a fellow at Trinity College until, in 1997, he became President of Queens’ College. He has also been a Visiting Professor at Columbia University, New York; the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; the University of Amsterdam; and the New School for Social Research in New York. He now spends part of the year teaching at the University of Southern California, where he is a Professor of Economics.

His early work was on economic theory, engaging with problems in classical political economy and Keynesian theory, and applying theoretical insights to contemporary economic policy questions. He helped found the Cambridge Journal of Economics and the journal Contributions to Political Economy. Later, he worked on problems of international finance and unemployment, financial markets and regulation. His more recent publications include Global Finance at Risk: The Case for International Regulation; Global Governance of Financial Systems: The Legal and Economic Regulation of Systemic Risk; and The Fall and Rise of Keynesian Economics.

Lord Eatwell has acted as an adviser to Governments and to major financial institutions. From 1985 to 1992 he was economic adviser to the Leader of the Labour Party, Neil Kinnock. He was also one of the two founders of the influential think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research. In 1992 he entered the House of Lords, and from 1993 to 1997, and again from 2010 to 2013, was Principal Opposition Spokesman on Treasury and Economic Affairs.

Since the 1990s he has served on several financial services regulatory bodies. He was Chairman of the Jersey Financial Services Commission from 2010 to 2020.

In addition to his academic and policy work he has been chairman of a number of public bodies, including the British Library. He has been a member of the Board of the Royal Opera House, where his particular interest was the Royal Ballet. He has always admired the ballet dancer, Sylvie Guillem – raised, like Lord Eatwell, in a working-class family, and as he puts it: ‘wilful, committed, creative, difficult, and the greatest dancer of her generation.’

These days - for fun - Lord Eatwell carries music stands for his wife, the conductor and music educator, Suzi Digby OBE. Lord Eatwell is an inspiring example to us all of deep and sustained commitment to the public good. Since 2013, he has chaired the Advisory Board of the Institute of Policy Research, at the University of Bath. We have been enormously privileged to benefit from his wisdom and advice.

Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Lord Eatwell, who is eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Doctor of Policy Research and Practice, honoris causa.


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