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The Lord Dearing Building


The New Teaching Building was recently renamed in honour of Lord Dearing, the former Chief Executive of the UK Post Office and 5th Chancellor of the University of Nottingham.

Lord Dearing is most commonly remembered as the author of the influential Dearing Report (1997) into Higher Education in the UK, which recommended sweeping changes to university funding and tuition.

Born in 1930 in Kingston upon Hull, Ronald Dearing suffered early bereavement when his father, a docks clerk, was killed during a World War II air raid. However, Ronald attended grammar school before leaving at 16 to join the civil service. He was later granted academic leave from his job at the Ministry of Power to study for a BSc in Economics from the University of Hull. After graduating in 1954, he rejoined the Ministry, rising to become Assistant Secretary of the Coal Division by 1967.

The previous year, Dearing had played an influential advisory role in the UK government’s response to the Aberfan Disaster, in which a massive coal waste tip collapsed onto a small Welsh town, killing 144 people including 116 school children.

In 1972 he became a regional director of the Department of Trade and Industry before being installed as chairman of the Post Office in 1980. Although the job had long been considered a poisoned chalice, Dearing turned around the fortunes of the struggling Post Office, streamlining the business whist still turning a healthy profit.

After taking the chair of Camelot in 1993, Dearing was instrumental in helping the company fight off the challenge of Sir Richard Branson’s consortium for the right to run the UK’s new National Lottery.

Although without prior working experience of higher education, in 1993 Dearing was appointed chair of the new School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. During this time he advocated a loosening of the over prescriptive UK National Curriculum and reforms to GCSE and A-levels.

This experience led directly to his 1996 appointment as chair of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education. The 1,700 word Dearing Report, published the following year, is widely regarded as one of the most influential documents ever published into higher education in the UK.

Dearing had long argued that the British economy could never survive without wide ranging expansion and university funding reforms. Among Dearing’s many recommendations, the newly elected Labour government accepted his call to introduce university tuition fees as a way of funding unprecedented increases in student recruitment.

Although tuition fees remain controversial to this day, Lord Dearing later called for the reintroduction of a grant system to encourage more students from working class backgrounds to attend university.

Although at the time he was already receiving treatment for cancer, Dearing still worked ferociously, sometimes putting in 15 hours a day. Made a life peer in 1998, he went on to produce further influential reports into church schools and the teaching of languages.

Lord Dearing served as Chancellor of the University of Nottingham from 1993 to 2001.

He died on February 19th 2009 at the age of 78.

Ronald Dearing married Meg Riley in 1954. They had two daughters.

Posted on 14 April 2016