`Viking' who fills the order books

Lesley Gerard on the controversial career of LSE director, John Ashworth

"I am not some hairy-arsed Viking from the North bent on a bit of rape and pillage,'' John Ashworth is reputed to have told academics just before arriving at the LSE. The comment, now part of LSE folklore, was intended to allay staff fears that hi s regime would be marked by massive cuts.

Mr Ashworth claims he phrased it more politely but the message was the same. He had been managing director of Salford University since 1981. When he took up the post at Salford the outlook was bleak. When he left nine years later, the order books were full and joint ventures with local companies were flourishing.

Mr Ashworth was keen to show that he understood the LSE was different but determined to introduce reforms.

Three months after arriving, he circulated a paper entitled 2020 Vision, which warned of a descent into mediocrity if change was not forthcoming. His style jarred with colleagues. As a scientist rather than a social scientist, he signed up for summer school at the LSE and attended economics lectures.

"People were never sure whether he was learning about economics or inspecting their classes,'' said a colleague.

He insisted the LSE needed a much bigger intake, more and better research centres and should shift its emphasis and resources from undergraduates to post-graduates.

Some academics complained an American-style graduate school driven by money was emerging. Others predicted an intellectual deficit if applied research took precident over teaching and academic study.

The new director, however, has remained committed to courting research funding from industry, setting up the company Enterprise LSE.

He cites one of the major achievements at the LSE as the fact that research funding has quadrupled from £2m in 1988/89 to £8m in 1995/96.

MrAshworth has faced two public humiliations. Both are linked to the fact that the LSE does not have the space to expand and cannot capitalise on the government higher funding system which means that the more undergraduates you recruit the more money youget.

In an attempt to resolve this funding dilemma, MrAshworth said the LSE would have to introduce top-up fees. Academics voted overwhelmingly against the idea. A public campaign to get the Government to help fund a £65m bid for County Hall as new premises also failed. If he leaves the LSE he will more than likely go with one of the soundbites he has become notorious for: "I believe in seeking new ways to turn academic knowledge into something applied and useful,'' he says.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Inside Sales - OTE to £45,000

£25000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a leading supplier of bu...

Recruitment Genius: Installation Engineer - Driveway

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative, fast growing f...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Project Manager - Technical

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a Jun...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral