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Obituary: Norman Mackenzie

Prof Norman Mackenzie

Emeritus Professor Norman Mackenzie, who died on Tuesday (18 June) at the age of 91, was the founder-director of the Centre for Educational Technology at Sussex and Director of the School of Education for several years.

Norman came to Sussex in 1962 from the New Statesman, where he had been assistant editor for the previous 20 years.

It was Professor Asa Briggs, an old friend and the then Dean of the School of Social Sciences, who channeled Norman’s long-standing academic interests and brought him to the newly established University of Sussex as a Lecturer in Political Sociology.

With his first wife Jeanne, Norman wrote several biographies of H.G. Wells, Charles Dickens and others, and edited Beatrice Webb’s diaries.

But it was in educational technology and development that he made his mark at Sussex. After chairing a Senate working party on the use of television in the University, he obtained funding from the Rank Organisation to implement some of its recommendations, together with those of parallel working parties on language laboratories and programmed learning.

The new Centre for Educational Technology (CET), formed in 1966 with Norman as Director, developed a role of academic research and development, teaching and consultancy. The Education Development Building (now Silverstone) was the home of audiovisual services, TV facilities and a language laboratory.

In a book published to mark the University’s silver jubilee year in 1986, Lord Briggs recalled: “Sussex became a designated national centre, and the work carried out in the University on a battery of learning methods influenced many other learning institutions, including the Open University.”

In fact, its influence was so significant that in 1967 Norman – along with Professor Briggs - became a member of the Planning Committee and then the Council for the new Open University, which started teaching in 1971 and subsequently awarded him an honorary degree in 1977.

At Sussex he held senior roles as Chairman of Education and Director of the School of Education, was made a Professor of Education in 1977 and retired in 1983.

The University’s former Registrar, Dr Geoff Lockwood, says: “Norman was archetypal of the University of Sussex; his knowledge and experience spread across the humanities, education, social sciences, arts and technology.

“In addition to the formal offices he held, Norman was a major influence on the development of the University as a close adviser to the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar for over two decades.”

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Wednesday, 26 June 2013