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February 18, 2000

If the kind of global education predicted by David Blunkett this week ever takes off in the United Kingdom, it will owe much to the work of Robin Middlehurst.

The former director of quality enhancement at the Quality Assurance Agency, now professor of continuing education at the University of Surrey, has devoted much of the past few months to finding out how it will work.

She is compiling a study for the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals on the impact of virtual and corporate universities. "My work has always had the theme of looking at higher education from the outside and being aware of the impact outside," she says.

She was educated at the Royal Naval School in Haslemere, Surrey, while her father was overseas, then went to sixth-form college in Canada, attracted by the skiing and travel.

She began studying for a degree in Indonesian and Southeast Asian history at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, but quickly switched to straight history at Lancaster University.

Although attracted first to social work, she decided to train as a teacher because the course was shorter. She studied at the then Froebel Institute at London University to teach primary school children but went into remedial teaching at a secondary school, became deputy head of an adult education centre and taught on a Youth Training Scheme.

With a studentship from the Economic and Social Research Council, she did an MPhil in education at Reading University and became a part-time research assistant at the University of Surrey. She later lectured at the Institute of Education, before joining the Higher Education Quality Council - later the QAA - as assistant director, then director of the quality enhancement group.

She left for Surrey when the QAA moved to Gloucester. Primarily interested in leadership and quality in education, she is praised for her intelligence and strong educational networks.

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