An affecting presence

February 19, 2015

Throughout his career, Sir David Watson sought to develop an understanding of higher education through research. He strongly supported the idea that higher education is a social good. As president of the Society for Research into Higher Education, David used his annual address to conference (always the best attended keynote) to explore the relationship between higher education and society in ways that urged members of the research community to search for evidence on how current policies and practices affect not only students and staff but also society in general.

David was a staunch supporter of the work of the SRHE and was the society’s president from 2005 to 2012, standing down at his own insistence, as was typical of him, otherwise we would never have let him go. He felt that his seven years as president (two more than he signed up for) were, in his own words, “enough from me”.

He was wrong, of course, as there could never be enough of what David had to say, the way that he said it and the breadth of knowledge, understanding, weight of compassion and sheer humanity that imbued everything he said and wrote about higher education.

He is, and always will be, one of the very finest people I have ever met.

His legacy in terms of his written work will remain with us. What his colleagues will remember most is the friendship and support he gave to everyone, the way he touched so many lives and supported so many careers. He believed absolutely in collegiality within the academy, and the only times I ever saw him less than an ocean of calm and kindness was when he was faced with some incidents of petty unpleasantness or spite between academic colleagues. This really distressed him.

We will not see his like again.

Helen Perkins
Director, Society for Research into Higher Education

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy

Participants enjoying bubble soccer

Critics call proposal for world-first professional recognition system ‘demented’