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.