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July 23, 1999

In a collection of memoirs by alumni of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, journalist Richard Gott recalls his first meeting with Roger Waterhouse, who was wearing "a garish blue sweater and no jacket... It was the first time I had ever consciously met someone from a grammar school," says Gott.

The desire to ensure that the Gotts of today will meet a more varied student body has driven Mr Waterhouse, 59, vice-chancellor of the University of Derby since 1992, to take a radical approach to higher education.

He has professed his wish "to take the educational product to the people". He chairs the lifelong learning partnership for Derbyshire and has chaired the Derbyshire Careers Service since 1995.

Born in Sheffield to a working-class family, he went to Oxford to study philosophy and psychology. After a year at Shoreditch College, he travelled to Israel to teach in a kibbutz, returning to Sheffield as head of economics at Myers Grove comprehensive school.

In 1968, he became an assistant lecturer at Hendon College of Technology, before joining Middlesex Polytechnic as head of the department of humanities, followed by Wolverhampton Polytechnic, where he was director of academic planning.

He became director of Derbyshire College of Higher Education in 1989. Praised by some for the way he handled the college's transition to a university, his management style and "unorthodox views" have also provoked enemies. Hints of this appeared in the last-minute failure of a plan last year to merge the university with two Derbyshire colleges.

But his supporters talk of his abilities as a "thinker", his strong vision, dynamism and commitment to creating education for all.

He is said to be a highly practical man, who displays a more creative side in his skill at wood turning, making jugs, ashtrays and rose bowls for his friends.

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