Obituary - Roger Van Noorden, 1939-2010

May 13, 2010

A leading academic administrator and inspirational teacher of economics has died. Roger Van Noorden was born in London on 8 July 1939 and spent the war years in Buckinghamshire before returning to London for his schooling.

After a year working for an insurance company, he went up to Hertford College, Oxford in 1958 to study philosophy, politics and economics (PPE).

Apart from a brief interlude at Nuffield College, Oxford, he was to remain at Hertford for his whole career, serving as Fellow and tutor in economics, bursar and, after he retired in 2006, honorary Fellow.

Although he gave early signs of a powerful, logical and mathematical mind (and proved to be a formidable bridge player), Mr Van Noorden did comparatively little research.

Yet he was an exceptionally dedicated tutor, who gave more time to teaching than he was contractually obliged to, and continued to do so without payment after retirement.

The strong reputation for PPE that Mr Van Noorden helped the college to establish attracted many students who went on to become prominent national figures.

Like many old-style academics, Mr Van Noorden was sceptical about the value of professional university managers and a great believer in the ability of scholars to run their own institutions.

This faith was amply justified in his case. Although his own lifestyle was frugal, he possessed a genuine talent - by no means common to all academic economists - for making skilful investments, and proved highly effective in building up Hertford's endowment.

He also played a prominent role in raising its profile and in widening access, firmly supporting plans for it to become one of the first men's colleges at Oxford to admit women undergraduates in 1974. A college common room was named after him in honour of his contributions.

Despite his commitment to his own college and the collegiate system, Mr Van Noorden also contributed to the development of the university more widely through his support for the creation of the Said Business School, his work on Oxford's governing committee and his crucial role in financial negotiations with the government.

The so-called Van Noorden index is still used to measure the impact of inflation on Oxford's major costs, so determining annual increases in student rents.

John Landers, principal of Hertford College, paid tribute to Mr Van Noorden as "a totally dedicated and inspirational teacher who made an extraordinary contribution to the lives of successive generations of undergraduates".

Mr Van Noorden died on 12 April 2010 and is survived by his wife Sally and their two children.

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