Obituary: Ted Hughes

Michael Richardson
Tuesday 14 September 1999 23:02

TED HUGHES made an outstanding contribution to the development of university adult education and lifelong learning, which he saw passionately as an instrument for social justice.

He was a Yorkshireman, born in Leeds in 1921, the son of a post office worker, and educated at Aireborough Grammar School, from which he won a scholarship to New College, Oxford, where he read PPE. The Second World War interrupted study there, and he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery. Serving on the front line in Burma, he was wounded, invalided out by mule and, upon recovery, posted to the General Staff in India.

After the war he returned to Oxford, finished his degree and topped it up with a BLitt, in which his thesis, probably the first in its area, was on the setting up of the United Nations. The only critical comment from his examiner on what was otherwise regarded as a brilliant thesis was to rebuke him for the remark "data is scanty" with the corrective "Mr Hughes - data are scanty!" During this period, he involved himself in the direct teaching of adults in the Workers' Educational Association (WEA).

He was appointed Lecturer in Politics at Newcastle University in 1947, where he was active in the redrafting of the constitution of the university, as it became independent from Durham University, and in the development of the pioneering Tyneside Youth Parliament. He specialised in American politics and spent a year teaching in the University of Michigan.

An accomplished communicator, Hughes also filled the role of anchor man for a series of political programmes in the early years of Tyne-Tees Television. On the national scene he became vigorously involved with the work of the Association of University Teachers and was Chairman of the AUT's Committee "B" at a crucial time in the negotiation of university teachers' salaries. He went on to become President of the AUT in its 25th anniversary year.

From 1964 to 1986 Hughes was Director of Adult Education in Newcastle University. Following through his social justice goals, he built up the department's work in areas of rural and urban deprivation, as well as extending access to the university through public lectures. His period of office spanned a time of development in adult education in universities, seeing a transition from the post-war "reconstruction phase" to a much wider engagement of universities with their local adult communities (his department gave evidence to the Russell Committee whose report was published in 1973 as Adult Education: a plan for development); and it set the scene for Newcastle's recent decision to appoint, for the first time, a Professor in Lifelong Learning.

For several years, Ted Hughes was also chairman of the university's Disciplinary Committee and his proudest boast was that it never met, "such matters being best dealt with normally by other means". In rural retirement he was able to indulge his passion in productive gardening, hitherto constrained by urban allotments, and he developed one of the finest domestic potagers (kitchen gardens) in Northumberland, from which position of strength he was able to become a successful secretary to his local village leek club.

Edward William Hughes, educationist: born Leeds, Yorkshire 21 December 1920; Lecturer in Politics, Newcastle University 1947-64, Director of Adult Education, 1964-86; OBE 1978; married 1969 Judith Bavidge (two sons, one daughter); died Lesbury, Northumberland 7 September 1999.

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