Thursday 15 April 2010

A celebration of the 'founder' of the University of Dundee

This year marks the centenary of the birth of James Drever, the first Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee and one of the most pivotal figures in the University's history. Principal Drever was the son of an Edinburgh academic and was educated at the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge. After completing his education he remained in academia for the rest of his working life, apart from a spell of service in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Originally a philosopher, he developed an interest in psychology and in 1944 he was appointed as Professor of Psychology at Edinburgh, in succession to his father, also James Drever (1873-1950). Under the younger Drever's leadership the Psychology Department at Edinburgh grew greatly in strength and stature and Drever himself became a widely respected figure. In 1961 his interest in the theory and practice of higher education led to his appointment to the Robbins Committee which reviewed the provision of higher education in the UK and recommended the expansion of the sector and the creation of new universities.

One result of the Committee's work was the decision that Queen's College, Dundee, should leave the University of St. Andrews and became a University in its own right. Drever was an obvious choice to be the first Principal of the new University and arrived in Dundee in the summer of 1966 to assume the Mastership of Queen's and oversee its transition into a fully-fledged university. Thanks to his hard work the College was well prepared to make the transition to being an independent university in 1967.

After 1967 Drever worked hard in an effort to make the University of Dundee a success. His task was made harder by the fact that within a few years changes in government policy meant that planned expansions had to be abandoned and the University had to operate in an uncertain financial climate. This put pressure on resources and meant that spending had to be cut to a minimum. At the same time the late 1960s and early 1970s was a time of student unrest and protests. Despite this Drever managed to steer the University through the storm and maintained a solid level of popularity among both staff and students. He finally retired in 1978 after eleven years service as Principal, a record that is yet to be beaten by any of his five successors in the post. After his retirement Drever continued to attend University events and was a faithful supporter of the institution he had done so much to make a success until his death in 1991.

James Drever's papers are now deposited in the University Archives. They include copies of various speeches he made while Principal, reprints of several of his important papers on psychology and various items of correspondence. More information on Drever can also be found in the various collections of university records held in the Archives as well as in the papers of some of his colleagues.

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