Obituary: D. F. Swift

D. F. Swift was one of a small group of British sociologists whose empirical and theoretical work illuminated the social impediments to educational opportunity of a class-stratified society. This was reflected in the Newsom report, Half Our Future, on secondary education (1963), the Plowden report Children and their Primary Schools (1967) and in various government policy initiatives aimed at alleviating disadvantage.

Don Swift was born in a village near Liverpool, the son (and grandson) of a blacksmith, was educated at St Mary's College, Crosby, and spent National Service in the RAF Police, for a time in Berlin. He trained as a teacher at the Cheshire County Training College, Alsager, where he met his future wife, Enid. After a period in secondary schools, he returned to higher education and at Hull University read Sociology. Following PhD work at Liverpool, he took up a teaching position in Canada, at the University of Calgary, and later returned to Liverpool, to a post in adult education.

His doctoral research, a study of family background factors on the educational performance of schoolboys in Liverpool, was influential in the burgeoning field of sociology of education in Britain in the 1960s. With sociologists at Liverpool University and a nearby college of education, Edge Hill, in 1965 he initiated the international journal Sociology of Education Abstracts, now in its 32nd year. In 1966, he was appointed to Oxford University's Department of Educational Studies, where his advanced course in the sociology of education attracted present and future lecturers in the field.

But it was at the Open University, where he became a Foundation Professor of Educational Studies in 1970, that his concern for educational opportunity found more practical expression. He convened the sociology of education group which contributed to the first large-scale BA degree for non-graduate teachers, offered by means of a purpose-designed, structured "distance education" programme. The group utilised an unconventional range of perspectives, and its innovative textbooks were used world-wide on both distance education and conventional courses in higher education. As a Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Open University from 1976 to 1981, he contributed to the establishment of what was then a unique institution in its early years and attracting international interest.

During the 1980s he became acquainted with the Asian- Pacific region, for several years directing distance education programmes in Hong Kong for the University of East Asia, Macau, and lobbying for the establishment of such provision in Hong Kong itself. In 1988, the Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong was established, with Swift as its first director, and he continued as a persistent advocate for this new avenue of opportunity in a territory which, until then, had very restricted access to degree-level study. The Open Learning Institute (shortly to become the Open University of Hong Kong) now has over 20,000 students.

In 1992 he undertook what was to prove his final assignment, as a consultant to the South African Institute for Distance Education. The huge educational problems of the new South Africa offered a fresh challenge upon which, by temperament, belief and experience, Swift was ideally suited to comment and advise.

Don Swift was a comparatively private and unflamboyant man. His "religion" was cricket, in which he was an active team player each season, and his general physical fitness makes his sudden and premature death the more unexpected.

Maurice Craft

Donald Francis Swift, educationist: born Ince Blundell, Lancashire 27 September 1932; Professor of Educational Studies, Open University 1970- 86, Pro-Vice-Chancellor 1976-81; Director, Open Learning Institute, Hong Kong 1988-91; consultant, South African Institute for Distance Education 1992-97; married 1957 Enid Wilkinson (one son, two daughters); died Johannesburg 20 January 1997.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'