Professor Robert Williams

Professor Robert Williams

I am the son of a Welsh father and an Irish mother which may account for my love of talking and singing.

My parents met in a mental hospital in Sussex which is unusual if not terribly romantic. They insisted they were on the nursing staff but, whatever their status, they settled in London where I was born.

My father took me, at a very impressionable age, to Craven Cottage and I quickly became convinced that supporting Fulham Football Club would give meaning and purpose to my life. Nobody reported this cruelty to the NSPCC and I have suffered ever since.

My early school days were marked by my absence. I was a sickly, asthmatic child unable to attend primary school with any regularity. I attended St Clement Danes Grammar School situated next door to my birthplace, Hammersmith Hospital, which in turn is next door to Wormwood Scrubs Prison and, according to my teachers, my most likely career destination. I had what is sometimes known as an ‘attitude problem’. In an old fashioned, strict grammar school with a compulsory Combined Cadet Corps, I decided to flirt with pacifism and surly insolence. Authority and I were hostile strangers.

I have an older, very smart, sister who outstripped me in everything except height. I lived in her academic and social shadow. Our father believed in the competitive principle in relation to his children’s education and I usually lost. This has helped breed in me a certain philosophical resignation when I have time and again been passed over for a knighthood or Nobel Prize.

 

University changed my life and some of my attitudes.   

I had a wonderful time at Nottingham University. I don’t know where I had been but I certainly ‘found myself’. I blossomed so much I developed the ‘superman complex’ I still suffer from today. I acted, directed and produced a number of plays and only fitted in time for a little studying. Finally, my professor called me in and told me to ‘pull my ****ing finger out’. I did and embarked on an academic career-first at York and then at Durham.

Thirty six years later, I retired. I had written a number of books-some of them quite good-and lots of articles, chapters and papers. I had run a department, a college and a large faculty but I became disillusioned with the ways and standards of the modern university. The young rebel had become the older conservative lamenting the passing of what I saw as the ‘good old days’.

For many years, I also conducted a personal crusade against crime and corruption (see elsewhere on this page for details) but, when I finally accepted that my one-man mission had failed, I wondered what to do.  

In 2010 I became a professional speaker working frequently on cruise ships with the avowed intention, in keeping with my ‘superman complex’, of becoming ‘probably the best cruise speaker in the world!’ The rest is history....

 

Academic Appointments and Awards

  • 1969-1971 Tutor and Lecturer, Department of Politics, University of York
  • 1971-2005 Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Professor, School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University
  • 1987-1991 Dean of Social Sciences, Durham University
  • 1991-1997 Principal, St Aidan’s College, Durham University
  • 1997-2001 Head of Department, Department of Politics, Durham University

 

Visiting Professorships / Fellowships

  • 1975 University of Western Ontario, Canada
  • 1977 Harvard University, USA
  • 1981 Lewis and Clark College, USA
  • 1984 Australian National University; Flinders University, Australia
  • 1999 Renmin University, Beijing, Peoples Republic of China

 

Fellowships / Awards

  • 1977 British Academy Overseas Visiting Fellowship
  • 1984 Australian Studies Fellowship, Australian Government
  • 1997 Sir James Knott Foundation Fellowship

 

Official Appointments

  • Justice of the Peace, 1979-1999, Ministry of Justice
  • Member, Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for County Durham, 1993-99, Ministry of Justice
  • Lay Member, Judicial Appointments Panel, 1997-2000, Ministry of Justice
  • Chairman, County Durham Probation Board, 2001-2007, Home Office
  • Member, North East Sub-Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards, 2008-10, Department of Health

 

Anti Corruption Work

Consultant/adviser/researcher on fighting corruption for a variety of organisations, governments and international agencies including;

  • UK Department for International Development
  • US Agency for International Development
  • U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Bergen, Norway
  • European Commission
  • United Nations Development Programme, Beirut, Lebanon

 

This work has involved writing analytical and research studies on anti-corruption strategies and capacities as well as conducting field visits and reporting on specific situations in a variety of countries.

While conducting this work I have visited and worked in; Albania, Botswana, Ghana, Jordan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia.

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