Christine Humfrey, 1947-2020

Tributes paid to pioneer who was ‘pivotal in changing the way UK higher education thought about internationalisation’

August 20, 2020
Christine Humfrey

The global education champion who headed the University of Nottingham’s International Office for its first quarter-century has died.

Christine Humfrey was born in London in 1947 and studied at St Angela’s RC School for Girls before going on to a degree in English at the University of Reading (1966-69). She was employed as an administrator during the merger of several different colleges to form Middlesex Polytechnic (1969-72, now Middlesex University) and went on to become a faculty manager at the University of Nottingham (1973-83). She combined this with studying for a master’s degree in education at Nottingham (1976-9) and then a PhD looking at the development of the University Grants Committee (1979-83).

Once she had completed her doctorate, Dr Humfrey became the founding director of Nottingham’s International Office, one of the first in the UK. She championed, within the university and beyond, the establishment of its innovative new campuses in Malaysia and China. And she played an equally central role in developing a number of scholarship programmes, including the flagship “Developing Solutions” programme, which benefited some 850 students from more than 30 countries in the developing world over the course of 10 years.

Widely regarded as an expert on international education, Dr Humfrey was often consulted by other universities and government departments, taught on several postgraduate programmes and published a book titled Managing International Students (1988). She served as a trustee of what is now the UK Council for International Student Affairs and as vice-chair of the British Council Education Counselling Service Committee.

Christine Ennew, who worked with Dr Humfrey at Nottingham and is now provost of the University of Warwick, recalled how she “played a pivotal role in changing the way UK higher education thought about internationalisation – moving us beyond the simple processes of student recruitment and individual collaboration and towards a more holistic approach that embedded the international into so much of university activity. The breadth and depth of her impact owed much to a combination of her deeply held conviction about the value of internationalisation and the strength of her educational, moral and strategic arguments.”

Although she retired from Nottingham’s International Office in 2007, Dr Humfrey was awarded an MBE the following year for her services to higher education, science and regional development. She became a justice of the peace as well as a special professor in Nottingham’s School of Education, giving her further opportunities to research, teach and write about ways of internationalising higher education. She died of a stroke on 10 July and is survived by her husband Michael.

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