Chief executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business and chair of the Digital Television Group, David Docherty on business-university links, running marathons and his planned book about higher education.

David was recently appointed an honorary fellow at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study for a period of five years, where he plans to complete a book currently titled Knowing and Doing: The Once and Future University.

DC Hero DD

Where and when were you born?

Glasgow, 1956.

How has this shaped who you are?

I was brought up in the Gorbals when it was called the worst slum in Europe, and then the Castlemilk housing estate. I wanted out! My three windows were the public library service, the BBC and university, and I’ve enjoyed working for all three.

What kind of undergraduate were you?

I bobbed along enjoying myself, playing in a band, taking pleasure in reading Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Husserl, Nietzsche et al.

What was your most memorable moment at university?

I had two. In my first English essay, I misspelled “essay” and was generally dyslexic. In those days, I wasn’t offered help. I was told I was “functionally illiterate” and my professor questioned my right to be at university. He later apologised. The second, defining moment was when my favourite lecturer told me that if I worked hard, I could get a first. That fired me up.

How far do you feel that British universities have truly embraced collaboration with business?

[David Docherty] When I first started in the job [at the NCUB], Richard Lambert [former director of the CBI and chancellor of the University of Warwick] told me that the problem is business, not universities. I think there’s a certain truth to this. Businesses need access to better information about what’s going on in universities and about how to prepare themselves to absorb university research. That’s why we launched our innovation brokerage platform, Konfer, with the research councils and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Business-university collaboration reminds me, in many ways, of my BBC new media days: some people get it, others don’t need to get it, and the next generation will take it for granted.

Read the full interview here.

First published in Times Higher Education.