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Alumnus of the month - June 2010

Dr Richard Willis
HND Business Studies, 1977

Dr Richard Willis

Education is the key word and inspiration for our alumnus of the month.  From his beginning at the Polytechnic of South Bank, Richard has taken prestigious roles in educational institutions and media publications.

Since 2000, Richard has been a senior research fellow at the Centre for Research in Educational Policy and Professionalism at Roehampton University. 

As a senior research fellow and historian, he writes for publications - mainly books and articles. Richard writes for refereed academic journals and regularly for the media e.g. History Today, Community Care Magazine, Education Today, the Middle East Times, the Law Society Gazette, Family History Monthly, the Daily Telegraph, the Independent, and the Times Educational Supplement (England, Scotland and Wales).

Richard states:

…writing has always been my passion and education was instrumental in allowing me to follow a writing career.

Richard’s research is centred on teacher professionalism and the history of education. He has advised in recent years David Cameron’s team on a possible future role for the General Teaching Council (GTC)

He was appointed as a specialist writer for the GTC in 2009. Writing articles for the media on the GTC, at first pointing out the problems it faced.  He agrees that the disciplinary function exercised by the GTC is essential in 'policing' the teaching profession and serves to protect children from teachers who are not fit to practise.

Richard began studying at the Polytechnic of the South Bank towards a Higher National Diploma in Business Studies in September 1977. He considered the teaching to be very efficient and the course surprisingly challenging.  Student life was more hectic than he had anticipated and he was quite busy attending lectures, seminars and tutorials.  His fellow students were friendly and in some tests, HND students outstripped their counterparts on the BA degree course.

While taking the sandwich course he worked for Sphere Drake Underwriters at Lloyds.  This provided some useful practical insights into the insurance world and he specialised in kidnap and ransom insurance.

Richard states of his time at South Bank:

My experience at the London South Bank (LSB) provided a vital foundation on which to build my career. I will be eternally grateful to the tutors and lecturers at the LSB particularly Nigel Grimwade who contributed so much to the training I received.

After gaining the HND, he achieved a BSc (hons) in Political Science at Brunel University and a university prize for coming top of the class in his final year.  Postgraduate studies led to an MPhil in the School of Education, Leeds University in 1993.  Subsequently, he worked as a research associate in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge and was a leading researcher for the book ‘Becoming Teachers’ (Woburn Press 2004).

In January 2010, he was awarded a PhD in education by Glamorgan University. His thesis focussed on a topic connected to the history of the teaching professionalism.

Richard is also a Senior Associate at Cameron Alexander (Public Policy) and has worked for the Council for National Academic Awards.  He has written two books on teacher professionalism, including ‘The Struggle for the General Teaching Council’ (Routledge Falmer 2005). He is currently on the point of finishing his third book, which is of direct relevance to reforms being considered in the teaching profession.

The Struggle for the General Teaching Council chronicles the history of the struggle to promote a self-governing body for the teaching profession from its early problems in the middle of the nineteenth century right through to the establishment of the General Teaching Council for England in 2000.  It also explores the interest groups and policy makers who impeded its achievement and the attitude of teacher unions and the teachers themselves to the formation of such a body.  The book is of interest to academics, researchers and historians as well as postgraduate students.

Richard ends by stating:

My career has allowed me to explore a number of fascinating aspects of history and politics as well as providing me with the opportunity to write.

For further information about Richard, please visit