A tribute to Clive Robertson

By Chris Rust and Grant Clendining

I am sure many of you were shocked to hear of Clive’s untimely death earlier this year because he was always so full of energy, enthusiasm and life.  And the fact that it came only months after his retirement seemed to make it even more tragic; the fact that he hadn’t had time to relish the new opportunities that retirement brings.  Not that his was going to be a peaceful retirement.  After years as a trustee, Clive had only recently accepted the post of Director of the Learning from Experience Trust and was relishing the challenge of taking this organisation, so dear to his heart, to the next level. He was also in discussion with the hospitality industries professional body the Institute of Hospitality to undertake special projects and his diary was filling with keynote speeches and presentations on a range of topics both in the UK and abroad.

Clive started life as a scientist. His first degree was in biology and after a year of teacher training he did his Masters in food technology at Reading University. In 1969 he took up his first teaching post at Chichester College, teaching, in the main, science to day release butchers, bakers, beauticians and hairdressers where he learned and developed his craft as a teacher and started a thread that was to run throughout his career: his commitment to the student experience and in particular experiential learning. Chichester was followed by posts at Bournemouth College of Technology and a move into Higher Education at the Dorset Institute.

In 1980 Clive joined Oxford Polytechnic as a senior lecturer in the Department of Hotel and Catering Management. Very quickly he was promoted to Principal Lecturer, to lead the Food and Beverage group, and over the following 15 years he held a number of posts within the Department and the then Faculty of Technology before taking up the mantle of Head of the Department on a permanent basis after the retirement of Professor John O’Connor. He was often Acting Head of Department, Principal Lecturer Learning and Teaching and, I believe, the first ever elected Dean of the Faculty of Technology while still a Principal Lecturer. This was followed by periods as Faculty Review Group Chair and Head of Quality Assurance.

Clive was immensely proud when he was made Head of Department and building on the foundations of his predecessors, John Fuller and John O’Connor the department went from strength to strength. Student numbers grew, the postgraduate provision expanded rapidly and an applied research and publication culture started to flourished. Under Clive’s leadership the department’s national and international reputation continued to grow as a cutting edge centre for hospitality and tourism management education and the department was always in the top three in the UK irrespective of the criteria used.

Following the major university re-organisation in 2002 Clive was promoted to Associate Dean of the Business School and his expertise in the area of teaching and learning was further recognised when he became Head of Learning and Teaching Development and subsequently Head of the Student Learning Experience for the University. His expertise was again recognised when he was also invited to join the working party developing the QAA Benchmark Statements for Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism so influential in what constitutes modern day programmes of study in these subject areas.

From 2009, until his retirement last year, Clive was Director of The Higher Education Academy Subject Centres for both Business Management Accountancy and Finance and also Hospitality, Sport, Leisure and Tourism.  In this post, like all in his career, he left a positive legacy built on his professionalism and a lifelong commitment to enhancing the student experience. With the effective demise of the Subject Centres, which had saddened him greatly, it was an appropriate time for him to retire and look for new projects to undertake.

No matter what benchmark we apply, Clive had a very successful academic career and he leaves a legacy in both Hospitality and Tourism Management Education and the much wider international community concerned with the development of the student learning experience. He was a recognized national expert in work-based learning and a vociferous advocate of credit-accumulation and transfer. In Oxford Brookes – the fact that we have an annual conference focused on learning, teaching and the student experience, and the Brookes eJournal of Learning and Teaching – are just two examples of innovations which were both very much driven by Clive as a focus for the dissemination of all the good work being done here. This brief tribute can only hope to scratch the surface of the academic career of a man who had so many memorable milestones and highs, and touched and influenced so many people.

Posted in Obituary

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