Reporter 428, 30 November 1998


Resolution adopted by the Senate (21 October 1998) on the retirement of

Professor Michael Beddow

Michael Beddow went up to St John’s College, Cambridge in 1966 on an open scholarship to read Modern Languages. After obtaining a Double First in the Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos in 1969, he stayed on to take a postgraduate certificate in education, for which he was awarded a distinction for practical teaching, before becoming first a research student and subsequently research fellow at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. His PhD on Thomas Mann and the Traditions of the Picaresque Novel and the Bildungsroman was completed after some five years of research which included a year at the University of Tübingen as Foundation Scholar of the King Edward VII British-German Foundation. There followed a period of four years as staff fellow and assistant lecturer in German at Cambridge before he was appointed lecturer at King’s College London in 1979. He took up the Chair of German Language and Literature at Leeds in October 1986.

His twelve years in Leeds have been marked by rapid and, in some cases, profound change, both within the Department of German and beyond. Among the most significant of these, from the Department’s perspective, have been the introduction of modularisation, following hot on the heels of the massive post-1992 expansion of higher education. Michael took on overall responsibility for drafting and co-ordinating modularisation proposals on behalf of the School of Modern Languages, a daunting task which called for acute powers of analysis and a sure grasp of complex and often abstruse detail. But it is in his perception of and responses to the problems facing essentially traditional literature and language courses in the changed climate of higher education in the 1990s that Michael’s far-sightedness has been most in evidence. Recognising that wider access would bring students with different abilities and different expectations into our universities, and in the firm belief that the challenge to maintain standards, numbers and the vitality of the discipline could not be met by resorting to merely modish tinkering, Michael embarked on an extensive overhaul of the undergraduate curriculum centering on an innovative approach to language teaching which has been consistently praised by teaching quality assessors, external examiners and students alike, and which has undoubtedly been a central factor in the Department’s continued success in recruiting large numbers of highly motivated single-honours students in a nationally declining market. A gifted, witty and popular teacher, he also introduced or fostered a whole range of new courses to complement the best of the existing provision, culminating in his hugely popular Germany on the World Wide Web, a course which uniquely provided participants with not only a thorough grounding in the technical and political background to Internet provision in Germany, but also the practical knowledge to write, illustrate, mount and manage Web pages and an analytical understanding of the aims and achievements of specific German-language Web providers.

A keen supporter of Enterprise in Higher Education from the outset, Michael and other interested colleagues quickly established a national reputation for their work on experience logs, now universally adopted throughout the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, our own School of Physics, and in places far beyond Leeds, as an invaluable tool for self-development in the context of the year abroad. He has consistently promoted the acquisition of transferable skills by his students and encouraged awareness of the links between their own learning and the world of work, and more recently he has helped the Department prepare students for the first City and Guilds Licentiateships in Transferable Skills ever to be awarded on the basis of overseas work placements.

Michael wears his formidable scholarship lightly, as he does his comprehensive knowledge of IT matters; yet these things are passions nonetheless. He is internationally recognised as an authority in his particular fields (Goethe, Thomas Mann, Christa Wolf and the relationship between literature and ideas); and his wizardry with IT, be it hardware or software, tweaking a program or wielding a screwdriver, is legendary. He leaves behind a Department of German equipped to standards that are the envy of arts departments up and down the country, and it is principally in the field of IT consultancy that he now plans to develop his career. We wish Michael well in his venture, and we wish him, his wife Helen, and his son Andrew health, happiness and every possible success.

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