2001: GEORGE BROSAN
Brosan was Principal of Enfield College of Technology in the 1960s and my first boss when I worked there. The following letter was sent to the Guardian Obituaries page in response to the obituary by Tyrrell Burgess (available at http://www.theguardian.com/news/2001/nov/16/guardianobituaries.highereducation ) but not published.
Tyrrell Burgess, who wrote the eulogy of George Brosan (Obituaries, Guardian, 16 November 2001), never had the misfortune to work or study in an institution run by his hero. As one who worked under Brosan from 1964 to 1970 and followed his subsequent career with interest, may I add a few items which Burgess has airbrushed out of history.
In 1968 Brosan introduced a quota on overseas students at Enfield College of Technology. This was before national government had dreamt of any such thing, and indeed Brosan’s scheme was ruled illegal. His action naturally infuriated the student body, and led to the first sit-in at any higher education establishment outside the University sector. (This was led by Phil Hall, who later achieved fame as the man who made the Queen pay income tax.)
Brosan also attempted to sack a respected philosophy lecturer, Mark Fisher, for the heinous offence of having – allegedly – contributed to a student satirical magazine. The case collapsed ignominiously for lack of proof.
Incidentally Eric Robinson was never Brosan’s ‘deputy’ at Enfield, but merely a Head of Department. In any case, having served on an Academic Board with both men, I can testify that they hated the sight of each other.
But it was at North Eastern London Polytechnic that Brosan really went for the Guinness Book of Records. He went to court in order to get the President of the Students Union jailed – as far as I know the only Poly director ever to do such a thing. A thousand NELP students voted to occupy and the President of the NUS – a certain Charles Clarke – issued a statement deploring the use of the courts.
When Thatcher was elected, Brosan eagerly embraced Tory policies and attempted to sack over two hundred members of staff. I remember joining a demonstration of NELP staff and students which raised the chant ‘No knighthood for Brosan’. Perhaps his CBE counts as at least an away draw for us, when one recalls the other charlatans who have made careers in higher education management.
By the way, if NELP under Brosan was such a paradise on earth as Burgess claims, one wonders why it subsequently changed its name, Sellafield-style, to the Polytechnic of East London.
Those of us who worked under Brosan remember him as a buffoonish bully. The earth will be a cleaner and sweeter place without him.