In the news: Dr O'Prey

April 2, 2004

Fresh from the furore over Bristol University's admissions policy, author and academic Paul O'Prey is set to write a new chapter in Roehampton's history.

Dr O'Prey, 47, is leaving his post as director of academic affairs at Bristol to succeed Bernadette Porter as rector and chief executive of Roehampton, Surrey University. The Privy Council is expected to approve Roehampton's application to become a university in its own right over the summer. If successful, Dr O'Prey will become vice-chancellor.

Dr O'Prey was closely involved in fighting Bristol's corner when the media seized on claims that it was positively discriminating in favour of state-school pupils.

"At one end of the spectrum, we were accused of being elitist and, at the other, of engaging in some sort of Marxist social engineering. In fact, we were trying to find the best students, taking into account educational preparation in the context of their schooling," he said.

About half of Roehampton's students come from poor families with little or no experience of higher education, something Dr O'Prey appreciates, having been the first in his family to go to university.

Roehampton has a strong reputation for new media courses, social sciences and up-and-coming areas such as creative writing and will continue to carry out teaching and research under Dr O'Prey. He encouraged links with industry as Bristol's director of research and enterprise, and Roehampton can expect him to push this agenda.

Dr O'Prey also comes with a strong literary background, making him well suited to leading a university eager to promote its strength in the creative arts. After gaining an English language and literature degree at Keble College, Oxford, he worked as secretary to the author Robert Graves in the 1970s, based at Graves' home in Mallorca. He has published widely on authors of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Graves and Graham Greene.

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