In the news

January 29, 1999

A man with homely hobbies - he lists "my family (including sundry cats)" and cooking as his interests in Who's Who, along with golf and rugby union - Tony Higgins, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is said to see himself as the father figure of the UCAS family.

Inspiring loyalty and distrust from vice-chancellors in almost equal measure, he enjoys trying to manipulate both the media and government.

Condemned by Baroness Blackstone for "irresponsible scaremongering" over the effect of fees on university applications, it seems he has won his way back into favour.

Now aged 54, he has focused on higher education administration since his graduation from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the mid-1960s. He had originally wanted to study at Oxford but fluffed the application form - an early setback that perhaps inspired his annual publication, How to Complete your UCAS Form, which he launched in 1993.

Starting his career in the registraries of the universities of Leicester and then Loughborough, he became chief executive of the new Polytechnics Central Admissions System in 1984. On PCAS's merger with its rival, the Universities Central Council on Admissions in 1993, he spent a tricky year as joint chief executive before becoming sole head. He has proved an energetic and creative manager, "difficult to dislike even when he shafts people", as one associate put it.

A workaholic and not a natural delegator, he likes to keep fingers in several pies - such as Higher Education Business Enterprises Ltd and the Kennedy Committee on widening participation - although he recently withdrew from the board of ECCTIS, the higher education database, because of possible conflicts of interest.

He is expected to move on from UCAS before long, although he will probably remain in further or higher education.

People is edited by Harriet Swain and researched by Lynne Williams.

Send all information to Lynne Williams. The THES Admiral House 66-68 East Smithfield London E1 9XY Tel 0171 782 3375. Full listings of grants, appointments and honours appear on The THES website, under Netgazette, part of the service

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