In the news: Steven Schwartz

September 26, 2003

Steven Schwartz's media profile has rocketed since he became head of the government task force on fair university admissions, which produced its initial discussion document this week, writes Alison Goddard.

The vice-chancellor of Brunel University is no shrinking violet, having written 13 books and numerous newspaper articles. But it was his adoption as a favourite by Margaret Hodge when she was higher education minister that marked his ascent.

Professor Schwartz is an advocate of social justice. He believes the purpose of university education is to help build a fairer society. And he embraces market solutions to the challenges facing higher education.

He rails against regulation, likening the Higher Education Funding Council for England's practice of imposing quotas on student numbers to central planning in communist Cuba. To reinforce the point, after a period of expansion, Brunel did not enter clearing this year - an action that is normally the preserve of the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol, and the London School of Economics.

Professor Schwartz's media awareness means he is quick to spot a marketing opportunity. This year, Brunel awarded TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson an honorary degree after he championed Isambard Kingdom Brunel in last year's BBC television series Great Britons.

Born and educated in New York, Professor Schwartz graduated in psychology from the City University of New York. He then worked at the National Institutes of Health, the University of Illinois and the University of Texas. In 1978, he moved to the University of Western Australia and then to the University of Queensland, to lead its psychology department, before landing the job as head of Murdoch University in Perth.

Professor Schwartz became vice-chancellor of Brunel University last year.

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