John Radford

Professor John Radford

Emeritus Professor

, School of Psychology

John Radford was the first head of Psychology at what was then West Ham College of Technology, from 1965, and later Dean of Science. He introduced Psychology as an A-level subject in 1970. He was Chair of the Psychology Board of the Council for National Academic Awards, which oversaw the subject in non-university higher education to 1992.

On This Page


John Radford was the first head of Psychology at what was then West Ham College of Technology, from 1965, and later Dean of Science. He introduced Psychology as an A-level subject in 1970. He was Chair of the Psychology Board of the Council for National Academic Awards, which oversaw the subject in non-university higher education to 1992. He founded the Association for the Teaching of Psychology. He is a Fellow and Honorary Life Member of the British Psychological Society, and was the inaugural recipient of the Society's Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Teaching of Psychology. In 2011, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Psychology Education from the British Psychological Society, the first such award in the Society's 110-year history. He is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and of the Royal Society of Arts.

Career resume

My first degree was in History, English and French, at Goldsmiths' College, University of London, followed by one in Psychology, and a PhD, both at Birkbeck College, also University of London.

My first academic post was as Lecturer at Enfield College of Technology (now the University of Middlesex).  During my first year I applied for, and was fortunate to be appointed to, a post of Senior Lecturer at West Ham College of Technology (now the University of East London), specifically to lead an expansion of courses in Psychology, starting in the next academic year (September 1965).   Thanks to support from the College Principal, Dr Norman Bloomer, and to a long series of excellent colleagues, this proved to be outstandingly successful.  Our students had typically been rejected by universities, or had not even thought they were good enough to apply.  It is not too much to say that within three or four years the new Department (as it became formally in 1968) was recognised professionally as comparable with established university departments (and without the advantages, resources and prestige of the latter).   

In 1970 the College was amalgamated with two other Colleges to form one of the then new Polytechnics.  I continued as Head of Psychology (neither of the other two Colleges had offered this subject), combined with the post of Dean of Faculty (a group of related Departments).   Later I became an Assistant Director (the term 'Director' was used for head of the Polytechnic; 'Professor' was introduced later), and Dean of the Faculty of Science.    I took early retirement in 1986.      Most Polytechnics were created Universities in 1992.  I have remained affiliated with the University as Emeritus Professor.

I joined the British Psychological Society (BPS), the recognised professional and academic organisation for Psychology in the UK founded in 1902 and incorporated by Royal Charter, as a student member in 1958.   Later, for twenty-seven years continuously I was active in one or more of the Society's Council and major committees, plus numerous other groups, committees, working parties and so on.   I am a Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the Society, and an Honorary Life Member.   I received the Society's first ever awards for Distinguished Contribution to the Teaching of Psychology (1996), and later for Lifetime Achievement in Education in Psychology (2012).

In the late 1960s I led the introduction of Psychology as a GCE A-level subject*, and oversaw its development as Chief Examiner for nine years from 1970.  As a direct result many tens of thousands of students have received a grounding in scientific Psychology, and continue to do so.  It is fair to say that at least statistically this is unique in the history of the discipline.

*For anyone unfamiliar with UK education, the General Certificate of Education (GCE) is the usual end-point of formal schooling. Ordinary (O) level usually at 16, and Advanced (A) level at 18.   The latter involves normally three subjects studied for two years full time.   The A-level in Psychology was soon followed by O-level and other formal courses.    The total number of students involved is in the hundreds, rather than tens, of thousands.

In 1970, with the late James Breese, I founded the Association for the Teaching of Psychology (ATP), the first such organisation in the U.K., and chaired it for its first nine years.   I remain as an Honorary Life Member.

For some ten years I was a member, and chairman 1978-84, of the Psychology Board of the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA), which was responsible under Royal Charter for the approval and standards of higher education courses outside the university sector, and bestowing degrees and other awards, ensuring that they were equivalent to those of universities.   This was in my view a most valuable innovation in higher education, and its destruction in 1992 was a tragedy.

Other professional activities have included: Psychology Committee of the Social Science Research Council; Chair of the Science Fiction Foundation; elected member of the Governing Body of North East London Polytechnic; Governor of a group of secondary schools, London Borough of Newham; BPS representative on the Court of City University; Chief External Examiner, external assessor and consultant at various institutions of higher education.

Throughout my full-time employment at UEL I never entirely ceased to teach, write and research; after retirement I was able to give more time to the latter two.  I regret mainly the loss of regular interaction with students, academically and socially, both crucial for higher education in my view.   I sum up my over-riding aim for education and for Psychology in particular, as responsible autonomy: the ability to make and carry out informed decisions, always having regard to the interests of others. 



  • 1974.   Thinking:  Its Nature and Development.   With A Burton.   Wiley
  • 1975.   The Person in Psychology.   With R Kirby.  Methuen
  • 1976.    Individual Differences.   With R Kirby.  Methuen
  • 1978.    Thinking in Perspective.   Contributing Editor with A Burton.   Methuen
  • 1980.    The Teaching of Psychology:  Method, Content and Context.   Contributing Editor    with D Rose.   Wiley
  • 1980    A Textbook of Psychology.   1st Edition.   Contributing Editor with E Govier.  Sheldon Press.  
  • 1984.    Your Introduction to Psychology.   With K Raaheim.   Cappelens Forlag.
  • 1984.    Teaching Psychology:  Information and Resources.   Contributing Editor with D  Rose.  British Psychological Society.
  • 1989.      A Liberal Science:  Psychology Education Past, Present and Future.   Contributing Editor with D Rose.   Wiley
  • 1990.      Child Prodigies and Exceptional Early Achievers.   Harvester Wheatsheaf.
  • 1991      A Textbook of Psychology.   2nd Edition.  Contributing Editor with E Govier.  Routledge
  • 1991.     Talent, Teaching and Achievement.    Contributing Editor.   Jessica Kingsley
  • 1991      Helping Students to Learn.   With K Raaheim and J Wankowski.   Society for Research in Higher Education and  Open University Press
  • 1998      Gender and Choice in Education and Occupation.    Contributing Editor.   Routledge
  • 1998      Quantity and Quality in Higher Education.   With K Raaheim.   Jessica Kingsley
  • 1998      Innovations in Teaching Psychology.    Editor with D Van Laar and D Rose.   Staff and Educational Development Association
  • 1999      The Intelligence of Sherlock Holmes and other three-pipe problems.   1st edition, Sigma Forlag.  
  • 2007      Don’t You Believe It!   Some things everybody knows that actually AIN'T SO.   1st Edition, Stepney Green Press.  
  • 2015     The Intelligence of Sherlock Holmes and other three-pipe problems.   2nd edition (e-book) Stepney Green Press / Kindle Direct Publishing
  • 2016      Don’t You Believe It!  Sixty Things everybody knows that actually AIN'T SO.    2nd edition (e-book) Stepney Green Press / Kindle Direct Publishing
  • 2017      A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs: A random collection of published malapropisms, solecisms and barbarisms with comments and corrections.  1st edition (e-book) Stepney Green Press / Kindle Direct Publishing
  • 2020      In Praise of Prose: Some English Writing from 1485 to 2018, with comments by John Radford. Complimentary copy on request.

Other publications

I have no list of papers, chapters, articles, invited talks, book reviews, letters to the press, reports, conference contributions and so on, many of them ephemeral, and I have no intention of trying to compile one.   It would require more time and effort than they took to produce in the first place (which was not inconsiderable).  Here are a few in which I try to explicate my views and rationale.

  • Academic psychologists:  parasites, priests, proletariat or professionals?   Psychology Teaching Review, 1997, 6, 170-180
  • Religion and Psychology:  What are they?   History and Philosophy of Psychology, 2006, 8, 1-11
  • A psychological memoir.    Invited contribution to the BPS Oral History Archive, 2008 (hard copy available).
  • Psychology in its place.   Psychology Teaching Review, 2008, 14(1), 38-50   See also responses from various authors, and my reply, in this journal, 14(2) and 15(1)
  • Religion, spirituality and virtue.   Transpersonal Psychology Review, 2009, 13, 50-57
  • Forty years on …   ATP Today, September 2010  (origins of A-level Psychology)
  • Applying Psychology.   In R Bayne and G Jinks (Eds.), Applied Psychology 2nd edition, Sage, 2013
  • The professional academic.   In R Bayne and G Jinks (Eds.), Applied Psychology 2nd edition, Sage, 2013



Briefly, I live in East London, in a house I bought when such things had not soared beyond the reach of academic incomes. At the time of writing I continue to explore the topography and history of London, both inexhaustible subjects. I've written up, though not yet in publishable form, a number of discursive walks or tours through London. At a less advanced stage is some sort of summary of my views about religion and related issues, supported by eclectic reading and personal reflection. 

I have never had the slightest talent for sport, but as an adult I became a fan of cricket, mainly of what remains of the first-class game - rather than the instant, limited over forms that are now the financial mainstay. I frequently visit the museums and art galleries in which London is so rich.  In the 60s and 70s I became enthralled by the surge of new interest in traditional music especially that of the British Isles; I also greatly enjoy opera, now mostly via TV or DVD. I remain like Sherlock Holmes an omnivorous reader, but mainly non-fiction.