Obituary: Lord Murray of Newhaven

Keith Anderson Hope Murray, educationalist: born 28 July 1903; Fellow and Bursar, Lincoln College, Oxford 1937-53, Rector 1944-53; Ministry of Food 1939-40; RAF Volunteer Reserve 1941-42; Director of Food and Agriculture, Middle East Supply Centre, GHQ, MEF 1942-45; Chairman, University Grants Committee 1953-63; Kt 1955; KCB 1963; created 1964 Baron Murray of Newhaven; Chancellor, Southampton University 1964-74; Visitor, Loughborough University of Technology 1968-78; Chairman, Committee of Enquiry into Governance of London University 1970-72; died 10 October 1993.

IT IS only very occasionally that an individual's decision on whether or not to accept the offer of a job makes a difference to the development of British institutions, writes Tam Dalyell. Possibly the clearest cut example of such a decision occurred in 1952.

The newish Conservative government was faced with filling the crucial post of the chairmanship of the University Grants Committee at a time when there was a consensus that university education should be greatly expanded. Elements in the Government, but more particularly in the Treasury and Department of Education, thought that the expansion would be controlled if the chairmanship of the UGC was given to a civil servant, and they had a number of ideal choices in mind, with the immensely talented and energetic Toby Weaver being front- runner. Rab Butler, with his many Cambridge and university connections, demurred, and said that at least academia should be given the opportunity to put forward an acceptable candidate.

In their unhappiness at the prospect of the universities' suffering the thin end of the wedge of state control, the Oxbridge heavyweights turned to the Rector of Lincoln who as bursar had rescued his college from looming financial disaster. Keith Murray was at that moment looking forward to becoming Vice-Chancellor of Oxford in the following year, 1953, and did not want to be severed from Lincoln. However, he succumbed to the pressure of his friends, led by Oliver Franks, Canon CE Raven, Master of Christ's, Cambridge, and the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Sir Lionel Whitby, Master of Downing. By doing so, he ensured that the universities would remain at arm's length from the Government, and this was with beneficial consequences for the next quarter of a century.

My abiding memory of Murray was his commanding performance before the Public Accounts Committee as accounting officer. As a 29-year-old MP I had asked him some direct questions about university education which Sir Edward Compton, then the Controller and Auditor General, observed to me afterwards were 'a bit over the top'.

However, the following week I had a message from Murray that he would like to give me a cup of tea and talk - which was kind and thoughtful. When I entered his room he put me firmly in my place. 'Why,' he said, looking up, 'did your parents take you away from my old school, Edinburgh Academy, and send you to Eton? Do you think that was good for you?' After my watery smile, he simply could not have been more charming or educative to a young politician about the working of higher education in Britain.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence