I am part of the first generation in my family to go to University, and I studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) at The Queen’s College and then stayed on at Oxford to study for an MSc and a Ph.D. in Politics, for which I was funded by studentships from the Economic & Social Research Council. I spent five years as Lecturer in Politics at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and have also been a Lecturer in Politics elsewhere in Oxford University at St Peter’s College, St Anne’s College, and Harris Manchester College. Immediately before coming to Exeter, I worked to facilitate ground-breaking research projects in the Social Sciences Division at Oxford University. I came to Exeter as the College’s Academic Dean in 2011.
I have also worked in the United Kingdom Parliament: in 2004, I was seconded to assist the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitutional Reform Bill [HL] (which established the UK’s Supreme Court, and reformed the office of Lord Chancellor and the procedures for judicial appointments); in 2014–15 I was specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Standards Committee for its enquiry into the Standards System (which, amongst other things, laid the groundwork for the increase of lay (non-MP) members in the scrutiny of MPs’ conduct).
My research interests are centered on British politics, especially Parliament, the constitution, and elections. My core focus has been on the modern history of reform (and lack of reform) of the United Kingdom’s upper House of Parliament, and my book on this, The House of Lords 1911–2011: A Century of Non-Reform, was published in October 2012 (paperback edition, 2014). I also maintain a keen interest in Australian politics, about which I taught myself as an undergraduate, and on which I wrote my PPE undergraduate thesis (helped by financial aid from my Oxford College, which enabled me to visit Australia on a study trip).
The role of Academic Dean is to co-ordinate the strategic planning of the College’s academic activity. Although I do not teach at Exeter, I look after teaching and learning for all subjects at the College, and I do this in three ways. First of all, I work with the College’s Outreach and Undergraduate Admissions Officer to encourage well-qualified applicants to apply to Oxford (and, indeed, to Exeter College), and especially to remove any actual or perceived barriers to applying to Oxford. We work collaboratively with all the other Colleges in Oxford – and our counterparts in Cambridge, too! – to achieve this. We link especially with schools in Devon (including Plymouth and Torbay), Cornwall and Somerset as part of Oxford University’s regional outreach programme. Secondly, I work with Tutors – Tutorial Fellows and Lecturers – to recruit academic staff and monitor the academic progress of our undergraduate students. Thirdly, I oversee the admission of our postgraduate students (those studying for Masters degrees and doctorates), and I have a special role in supporting our postgraduate community in College.
The House of Lords 1911–2011: A Century of Non-Reform (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2012; paperback edition 2014)
‘Hedging and Ditching: The Parliament Act 1911’ (2011) 30 Parliamentary History 19 DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-0206.2010.00239.x
Democracy and Voting: Compulsory turnout: a solution to disengagement? (London, Hansard Society, 2006)
(with Professor Stephen Coleman) Electoral Law and the Internet: some issues considered (London, Hansard Society, March 2001)