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Dr Brian Harwood

(Elected 2008)

Brian Harwood retired as Birkbeck's Registrar in June 2008 after a 30-year career at the College.

He studied chemistry at Imperial College and worked as a research assistant at University College London (UCL), earning a PhD in Chemical Engineering. He then began a career in university administration at UCL in 1973. Brian has seen many changes – in funding arrangements, the restructuring of the University of London and the acquisition of financial and academic autonomy by the London colleges. One major change he experienced was the huge growth in the number of degree students from 2000 in 1978, when he moved to Birkbeck as Assistant Registrar, to over 7000 by the time of his retirement, and the enormous growth in participation in continuing education.

The diversity and maturity of Birkbeck's students were the first things that impressed him when he started at Birkbeck. 'They were admirable – they were mature, the great majority of Birkbeck's students had jobs, they did not have time to waste and they were business-like and courteous,' he says.

One of the most memorable periods of Brian's time here was a battle which has remarkable similarities with the College's current fight against proposed government funding cuts. He says it was the excitement of battling cuts put forward by the then Universities Grants Committee in the mid-1980s that encouraged him to stay on as Registrar. 'When I took over in 1983,' he says, 'I had been thinking of staying for around three to five years, but when that time was up we were in the middle of a period of tremendous challenge and change; there was a sense of wanting to see things through. That idea stuck and was accentuated by the quality and dedication of Birkbeck's academic and administrative staff.'

November 2009