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Obituary for Professor Dr Geoff Whitty (University of Newcastle (Australia)

Monday, November 12, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Carine Jonker
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by Ian Menter (BERA President 2013-15)


Geoff Whitty died in July after battling illness for a number of years.  He was President of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) from 2005-2007.  It was during his presidency that the BERA office developed into the fully fledged professional outfit that we see today.  For this alone, BERA has a great debt to Geoff.  But also, during his presidency he commenced discussions with officers of the sister organisation in the USA - AERA.  


In conversation with AERA President, Eva Baker and General Secretary Felice Levine, the proposal to form WERA emerged. Thus, WERA too owes a debt to Geoff.  Overall, Geoff's contribution to our educational research community was massive.  He was a passionate advocate for the pursuit of the betterment of educational policy through research.  Those of us fortunate enough to attend the celebration of his life and work held just weeks before his death, at the UCL Institute of Education, were given a forceful reminder of the breadth and depth of his contribution to the field.  However, the wonderful tributes from a number of his colleagues were preceded by his own highly amusing and self-deprecating account of how his association with the Institute of Education began (see: ).


Geoff was truly what Gramsci would have called an organic intellectual.  He was deeply committed to social justice in and through education and wrangled throughout his career with ideas, policies and interventions that could further these aims.  He collaborated extensively with others committed to social justice but also took his commitments into the corridors of power.  He sat on the Board of Ofsted for example and served as Specialist Adviser to the successive Parliamentary Select Committees on Education.


Although his deepest institutional affiliation was with the Institute of Education, where he served initially as the Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education before being appointed Director in 2000 (see:, he also had a major impact at many other institutions, both in the UK and overseas.  His central scholarship was in the sociology of the curriculum, but he was widely published also in the fields of education policy and teacher education.After his 'retirement' and appointment as the first Emeritus Director of the IoE, he initially returned to the University of Bath, but also started significant associations with the Newcastle University, Australia and with Teachers' College in New York.  More recently, he took up a part-time post at Bath Spa University as Research Professor, where his impact was felt most clearly through the development of the Diversity in Teacher Education(DiTE) programme of research.


He bore his illness over recent years with incredible courage and kept being productive until the very end.  He is irreplaceable and will be sorely missed by all those who knew him and worked with him.

A comprehensive list of his publications is available at,, and two of his lecture videos can be found at Universities and Teacher Education in a New Era: Years of Making Sense of Education Policy:


Kate Reynolds, one of Geoff Whitty’s associates also said the following:

Geoff's impact on education research and education policy is immeasurable.  His breadth of knowledge and his expertise covered many countries - he was indeed a global intellectual. But more than that Geoff remained to his last days a coach, mentor, and above all friend of the education community.  We will miss him heaps.

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