Professor Maurice Kogan

Civil servant turned social scientist
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Maurice Kogan, civil servant and social scientist: born London 10 April 1930; civil servant, Department of Education and Science 1953-67; Professor of Government and Public Administration, Brunel University 1969-95 (Emeritus), Head of the School of Social Sciences 1971-74, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences 1987-89, Acting Vice-Chancellor 1989-90; married 1960 Ulla Svensson (two sons); died London 6 January 2007.

Maurice Kogan was a high-flying civil servant who in mid- career became an academic, and soon developed an international reputation. Increasingly, it is argued that social scientists should learn how government really works: the authority of Kogan's research was based partly on his first-hand knowledge of such governmental processes.

After almost 40 years in the academic world, the wide international acclaim and affection he had generated in his career was celebrated as leading researchers in higher education studies from across the globe came together to mark his Festschrift, Governing Knowledge (2005). Most had, over the years, enjoyed not only the stimulating intellectual debate Kogan always generated, but also the warm and generous hospitality he and Ulla, his Swedish wife, so often provided. And yet this Festschrift covered just one of the areas in which Kogan was an acknowledged expert.

His parents were Jewish immigrants and he and his identical twin Philip - who became founder-publisher of Kogan Page - were two of six children. When the brothers held their joint 70th birthday party, the invitation included a photo of the two of them as toddlers, but it was claimed no one now knew which was which. Maurice wore a badge to the party announcing, "I'm not Philip".

From Stratford Grammar School, Kogan won an exhibition to Christ's College, Cambridge. In 1953 he achieved a First in History and was also placed first in that year's open examination to join the Home Civil Service Administrative Grade. He gained rapid promotion in the Education Department. In 1966 he became an Assistant Secretary following spells as Private Secretary to Sir Edward Boyle and as Secretary to the Central Advisory Council for Education. Under the chairmanship of the formidable Lady Plowden this committee in 1967 produced one of the most influential and controversial reports ever to appear on primary education in England.

In the late 1960s Kogan, along with others such as Elliott Jaques and the economist John Vaizey, was part of a highly talented group recruited to the new Brunel University. In 1969 Kogan became the university's first Professor of Government and Social Administration. For over two decades he, with his team of colleagues, ran perhaps the UK's leading Master's course in Public and Social Administration. When, in 1989, the Vice-Chancellor suddenly died, Kogan took on the role of acting Vice-Chancellor with great aplomb - but only as his "nine to five" job because his commitment to his research was such that he continued to fit that into his "spare time".

He authored some 40 books (several of which went into subsequent editions) and many other publications, covering key issues in a wide range of public services. Kogan was a sharp (sometimes outspoken) critic of work he felt did not stand up to rigorous intellectual scrutiny, but such was his wit, energy and passion for good research that collaborators were delighted to work with him. Many, too, enjoyed the discussions with him that could range from literature, music and wine to the fun to be had from everyday life.

Kogan brought a breadth to research across the public services that was based on a combination of outstanding intellect, personal experience, historical perspective and wise understanding of political theory and practice. He drew on this to analyse the values, authority and power at work in the structures and processes of many institutions.

A series of pioneering studies on various aspects of education policy showed early examples of this approach. They included The Politics of Education (1971), based on extended interviews with two education ministers (Edward Boyle and Anthony Crosland), and Educational Policy-Making: a study of interest groups and Parliament (1975), which illustrated the methodological innovation and detail he brought to the study of public administration.

In total, his series of studies illuminated the workings of the educational system at many levels. The research on national institutions was complemented by important analyses of the role of directors of education, local education authorities and school governing bodies.

Highlights of his health services research included, in the late 1970s, work for the Merrison Royal Commission on the NHS. This was highly regarded and influenced the commission's report. His book with Richard Joss, Advancing Quality (1995), is viewed as one the few studies that properly addressed the full complexities involved in quality assurance reforms in the NHS.

Some of Kogan's most important contributions came at the meeting point between systems - where his form of working was so valuable. At such intersections he viewed the analysis of knowledge and power as critical.

This approach was exemplified in his book Government and Research (1983) which was based on a seven-year formative evaluation of the introduction of the Rothschild reforms into the research and development funded by the Health Department. It examined how policymakers in a government department could interact productively with scientists from the higher education sector. Extensive participant observation, documentary review and interviewing contributed to an innovative and insightful study. Commenting on a second edition published just in 2006, one reviewer highlighted how far ahead of its time the original study had been; only now had the rest of the world finally caught up with Kogan. This study also saw the beginnings of Kogan's productive collaboration with Mary Henkel.

Collaborations, increasingly international, were a hallmark of Kogan's research, not least in the field of higher education studies. With his nephew David Kogan, he produced The Attack on Higher Education (1983), which vividly demonstrated that, for him, the great public services were much more than something to be rigorously studied: they were to be cherished and defended, especially when they came under ill-conceived and unfair attack. With Tony Becher, he wrote Process and Structure in Higher Education (1980), the two editions of which have become classic analyses of the workings of higher education.

Maurice Kogan inspired an international study of higher-education reforms that involved teams from England, Sweden and Norway. Here all the usual Kogan attributes of diverse methods, strong theoretical analysis and convivial collegiality were applied to comparative research, and the collaboration resulted in six books. The overall findings were brought together in Transforming Higher Education (2000, 2006), which he co-authored with Marianne Bauer, Ivar Bleiklie and Mary Henkel.

Not surprisingly, Kogan was invited to serve various national and international bodies. These included the education sub-committee of the University Grants Committee (1972-75), the Social Science Research Council (1975-77) and the Advisory Group for the Committee of Award for the Harkness Fellowships, which he chaired from 1989. In 2000 he became a Founding Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (AcSS).

Perhaps most significant was his contribution to the work of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). For them, he undertook national reviews of education or higher education policy in the United States, Finland, Greece, Sweden and Norway and for many years edited their journal of higher education management.

His commitment undiminished, he continued working until shortly before his death.

Steve Hanney