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Alumnus of the month - March 2011

Robert Humphreys
MA Applied European Studies, 1991

Robert Humphreys

Robert Humphreys came to LSBU to study for fun, little did he know that the course would turn out to be incredibly useful and help him to forge a successful career in a completely new direction.

Robert did not follow the “traditional” route to university, instead he came to university as a mature student when he was 35 years old. For his first degree he read Sociology at London School of Economics and it was here he got a taste for education and learning. Robert then went on to read for a Masters in Occupational Psychology at Birkbeck and eventually came to LSBU to read for a Masters in Applied European Studies.

“In our first class at LSBU the lecturer asked everybody to comment on who they are and why they were here, as an ice breaker for the class,” says Robert. “Nearly everybody said they wanted to further their career, apart from me who had come here simply for fun.

The course covered the institutions, structures and working of the European community. It explored the functions and relationships between the Commission, Parliament, European Court of Justice and Council of Ministers. “The course was fascinating, it was a really inspiring spread of material” says Robert.

Before starting the part time course at LSBU, Robert had worked in a variety of roles within the Hotel industry for 15 years and was the BASS PR manager for the South of England and Wales for their pub and brewing businesses. During the course, Robert was promoted to Director of PR for the Brewery arm and his career was going from strength to strength.

In the early 1990s the Government carried out an assessment of the Pub and Brewery industry, which would have profound effects. The two year investigation by the Monopoly and Mergers Commission (now the Competition Commission) concluded there was a degree of monopolistic behaviour by the main players within the industry. This led to a huge upheaval of the Brewing industry, as the large companies were forced to split their businesses. These radical changes led to mass redundancies within the sector and unfortunately Robert was one of the casualties.

There was an irony in that the Government intervention which caused his eventual redundancy was also the source of a new career path, one which would heavily draw upon the teachings of his Applied European Studies course at LSBU.

Robert recognised that the Brewing and Pub industry needed a forum to lobby Government and ensure their voice was heard. In 1993, Robert helped set up the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group and a parallel group in the European parliament, both of which are going strong 18 years later and have a large membership. Their objective is to create and maintain a body of informed support for the Brewing and Pub sector in parliament.

Robert is the Honorary Secretary for the Group and undertakes a number of activities to help promote the industry. “The Beer Group is an excellent mechanism for nurturing a group of interested MPs and keeping them informed. It helps ensure easy access to reliable and impartial information for both MPs and Industry figures,” says Robert. “The beer and brewery industry is very large and every day something happens which affects it in the legislature. For example, tourism, planning, employment, taxation, social, transport all have an effect on the Industry.”

Robert remembers one of his key achievements as Honorary Secretary of the All Parliamentary beer Group. “Customs and Excise were proposing to change the method of calculating excise duty,” says Robert. “It is difficult to determine the exact amount of taxable beer in each barrel due to the sediment left over after the fermentation period. The brewing and pub industry trade association were negotiating against the change with the treasury, as it would have led to the Industry overpaying on duty, but unfortunately the negotiations broke down.”

“The All Parliamentary Beer Group was contacted and asked to intervene. Through our contact management programme we were able to find an MP willing to take on the case. The Head Custom and Excise was invited to the House of Commons, where the proposed changes were debated and the decision to keep the current system of calculating excise duty was made. It is estimated this saved the Industry 15 million pounds per annum.”

Robert’s career is highly satisfying and knowing he has made a real difference for the industry is very rewarding. It shows that by following a degree you have an interest in, can help you to change the direction of your career and lead to a job you are very successful in because you have a real passion for the subject.