Lord Sutherland of Houndwood

(Elected 2003)

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood is one of those rare individuals who combines a lifelong commitment to intellectual life with public service both inside and outside the world of education.

Within the realm of academia, he has a distinguished service. As Principal of King’s College London (1985–90), Lord Sutherland served on Birkbeck’s Board of Governors as University of London governor (1988-91) to represent the interests of the university community.

‘It really is a great honour to become a Fellow of Birkbeck,’ he says. ‘Birkbeck is hugely distinctive and has a great tradition. The College’s central mission to provide higher education for students with other commitments during the day has long provided a service that is now recognised as a widening participation model in the higher education sector.’

In 1990 Lord Sutherland became Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, heading the federation of 19 colleges and numerous specialist institutes. Four years later he became Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh (1994–2002), a role since held by Professor Tim O’Shea, a former Master of Birkbeck.

He is currently Provost at Gresham College, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and member of the board of the Courtauld Institute of Art. Lord Sutherland has made many contributions in the broader area of education, serving as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools in England (1992–94) and as honorary President of the Christian Education Movement in Scotland. He has published studies on higher education and served as a member of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (1995–2001), which funds and promotes high-quality teaching and research in universities and colleges in England.

In the wider community, Lord Sutherland’s presence continues to be felt. With an interest in the care of the elderly, he has chaired the Royal Commission on the Long-Term Care of the Elderly (1997–99). He now serves as the President of national charity Alzheimer Scotland – Action on Dementia and as Chair of the English Community Care Association.

Born Stewart Sutherland in 1941 in Aberdeen, Lord Sutherland was educated at Woodside School, Aberdeen, and Robert Gordon’s College. In 1963 he graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a first-class MA Philosophy, and two years later he received an MA Philosophy of Religion from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He commenced his academic career in 1965 as assistant lecturer at the University College of North Wales and became lecturer and then reader at the University of Stirling (1968–77). He went on to take the role of Professor of Philosophy of Religion at King’s College London, becoming Titular Professor in 1985 and Vice-Principal in 1981.

A respected writer, he is author of Atheism and the Rejection of God; God, Jesus and Belief; and Faith and Ambiguity, and co-author of The World’s Religions and Religion, Reason and the Self.

In recognition of his achievements, Lord Sutherland has received numerous distinctions, including 10 honorary degrees from European and American universities. An elected Fellow of the British Academy, he holds honorary fellowships from King’s College London; Corpus Christi Cambridge and the University College of North Wales.