Obituary: Sir David Huddie

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The Independent Culture
MAY I expand the statement in Andrew Nahum's obituary (16 June) that Sir David Huddie left Rolls-Royce for Imperial College? writes Alan Swanson.

Huddie was invited to join the Mechanical Engineering Department at Imperial by its then Head, Professor Sir Hugh Ford, who was developing his ideas about engineering education and in particular was seeking a better integration of university education and industrial training, to produce graduates who would be as sound in engineering science as their predessors but better able to apply it in the real world.

A central part of these ideas was that students should be sponsored by industrial firms and learn there about the realities of industry (which was not new) and that the firms should guarantee to provide certain features in their training to make it part of an integrated five-year programme and should send representatives to join Imperial College staff in overseeing both the industrial and academic phases of the course; this was new. The resulting "Total Technology" course, in the 1-3-1 form (three years in university sandwiched between two years in industry), started to do in the mid-1970s that which was later advocated for general application in the report of the Finniston Committee.

Huddie's part was to enlist industrial support. He did this so successfully that most major employers of engineering graduates were partners in the Total Technology course. The first students started the Imperial College part of their course in 1975; in 1977 Sir Fred Dainton, the Chairman of the then University Grants Committee, invited universities to offer proposals for a small number of engineering/undergraduate courses which should include the traditional engineering science but also include features to equip their graduates for future leadership in industry, and would need longer than the then usual three years. The thinking was very similar to Ford's, though the longer duration probably had to come from the funding body.

For David Huddie, this was a new challenge: having enlisted solid support for a 1-3-1 arrangement, he now had to do the same for 1-4-x ("x" because the lengh of the post- graduation part was vague), necessarily from largely the same constituency. He rose to the challenge as expected, and soon Imperial College had an array of sponsors for both three- and four-year courses that was envied by others.