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Professor Jonathan Bradshaw CBE, FBA: oration

Read Professor Jane Millar OBE's oration on Professor Jonathan Bradshaw CBE, FBA for the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in June 2015.


Jonathan Bradshaw, CBE is one of the UK’s leading social scientists and scholars of social policy. Over the past almost 50 years, he has made significant contributions to the study of social security policy, poverty, living standards, comparative social policy, and child well-being.

Jonathan Bradshaw graduated from Trinity College, Dublin and moved to the University of York in 1967, where he completed his MPhil and DPhil in social administration. He has made an outstanding academic career at the University of York – from research fellow to lecturer to professor. He was head of department (twice, 1988-1994 and 2003-2007) and the founding Director of the Social Policy Research Unit (1973 to 1987). Jonathan formally retired in 2011 and is now Professor Emeritus of Social Policy at York and also holds a chair in social policy at Durham University.

Jonathan is the author of numerous books and academic articles. To give just a few examples: in 1972 he wrote about the concept of social need, in a work that remains a reference point today. In 1983 he and Alan Deacon wrote about the operation of means-testing in UK social policy, again still of central relevance. In the 1990s he produced significant reports on lone parenthood and child poverty. And throughout the 2000s, he has been writing major comparative cross national studies of poverty, child support, and the first international “league table” of child well-being.

I recommend all of these. But you can also get an excellent shorter introduction to his work in the collection put together by his colleagues to mark his retirement. This was published in 2013 by Policy Press as Jonathan Bradshaw on Social Policy: Selected Writings 1972-2011. As the editors note, the collection “demonstrates his clear, humane thinking based on systematic evidence and analysis”.

Jonathan’s contribution has been recognised in many ways. He was appointed Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 1996, Commander of the British Empire in 2005, and Fellow of the British Academy in 2010. He holds an honorary degree from the University of Turku, Finland. He is an Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford and Honorary Research Fellow at the South African Human Sciences Research Council.

His work on child poverty and child well-being – which was cited in his CBE honour – has been an ongoing thread. His academic work has been ground-breaking in the use of large comparative data sets to produce compelling and rigorous analysis. This has been matched by his commitment to using that research to argue for the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable children in our rich country. His is a leading voice in current debates about how to not only protect children from poverty, but also to create the conditions of well-being and social inclusion for all children.

Hopefully this gives a flavour of what Jonathan has achieved and his immense contribution. This is very impressive, by any standards. But what is also important is how he has done this. Jonathan is a man of great personal integrity, warmth and generosity. His many former and current students and research partners can be found not just in the UK but around the world. I know that all would agree that working with Jonathan is always stimulating and enjoyable.

He has a real talent for engaging people and opening up opportunities that enable them to develop. Those of you who are graduating with doctoral degrees today will know the important role that your supervisor plays in how your research and indeed career develops. Jonathan was my doctoral supervisor, for which I am - many years later - still grateful.

Jonathan is a leading social scientist who has been steadfast in his commitment to social justice for children. He is an inspiring example to us all. Chancellor, I present to you Professor Jonathan Bradshaw, CBE, who is eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.

Professor Jane Millar OBE

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