Lancaster University

This is archived news from Lancaster University. You can find up-to-date stories in our current news section.

Sir Charles Carter Obituaries

08/07/2002 11:14:03

Obituaries for Sir Charles Carter, listed in ascending order of appearance in print.


Lancaster Guardian, July 12th, 2002

A memorial service for Sir Charles Carter, founding Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University, will be held on September 21. He died late last month at the age of 82 and was buried last Thursday.

A man of integrity, wisdom and commitment, Sir Charles shaped the University in innumerable ways and is credited with laying the foundations of its future success. As founding Vice Chancellor from 1963 to 1979 he bore responsibility for virtually all aspects of the new establishment, ranging from curriculum to building, planning and finances.

While the new University lived temporarily in St Leonardgate, he oversaw development of the present campus on a greenfield site at Bailrigg where the first students were admitted in October 1964. During his time in Lancaster, Sir Charles - who was knighted in 1979 - was chairman of the North West Economic Planning Council from 1965 to 1968.

A Quaker, he went to Rugby School abd later read mathematics and economics at St John's College, Cambridge.

He became Professor of Political Economy at Manchester University from 1959 to 1963 and was previously Professor of Applied Economics at Queen's University, Belfast, from 1959 to 1963.

A widower, Sir Charles is survived by one son and two daughters.

The memorial service will take the form of a Quaker meeting at Lancaster University Chaplaincy Centre at 2.30 on Saturday September 21 to celebrate both his life and that of his late wife.


The Times, July 19th, 2002

Sir Charles Frederick Carter, founding Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University, was born on August 15, 1919. He dies on June 27, 2002, aged 82.

After going to school at Rugby he read mathematics and economics at St John's College, Cambridge, he became a lecturer in statistics at the University of Cambridge, as well as being appointed a Fellow of Emmanuel College.

As founding Vice-Chancellor, Sir Charles was responsible, with a small group of colleagues, for implementing the framework of curriculum and governance structures from the Academic Planning Board, and the finances and physical planning of the university with the Executive Committee for the Establishment of a University in North-West Lancashire. He was responsible for the appointment of an architect who would develop the Bailrigg site, while temporary accommodation was obtained at St Leonardgate. Academic and support staff were appointed, and students admitted, for its opening in 1964.

By then the Charter and Statutes had been approved and the university was able to admit its own students, teach and examine them, and award its own degrees, as well as exercise a wide range of other powers. A man of wisdom, integrity and commitment, Sir Charles shaped Lancaster in innumerable ways and laid the foundations for its future success.

During his time there, he held various appointments, including Chairman of the North West Economic Planning Council (1965-8) and the School of Broadcasting Council for the United Kingdom (1964-70). He was knighted after his retirement from the university in 1979.


The Independent, 20 July 2002

Sir Charles Carter

Economist and founding Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University

Charles Frederick Carter, economist: born Rugby, Warwickshire 15 August 1919; Lecturer in Statistics, Cambridge University 1945-51; Fellow, Emmanuel College 1947-51, Honorary Fellow 1965-2002; Professor of Applied Economics, The Queen's University, Belfast 1952-59; Stanley Jevons Professor of Political Economy and Cobden Lecturer, Manchester University 1959-63; Vice-Chancellor, Lancaster University 1963-79; FBA 1970; Kt 1978; married 1944 Janet Shea (died 2000; one son, two daughters); died Glasgow 27 June 2002.

Charles Carter was a distinguished university economist who became the founding Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University. He was a man of outstanding integrity, and an original and sometimes iconoclastic thinker, but a doer through and through.

His father was an electrical engineer who pioneered "Carter's Coefficients" and became an FRS, and his mother an active member of the Society of Friends. He was a day boy at Rugby School, then an undergraduate at St John's College, Cambridge, where he gained Firsts in Mathematics and Economics. In the Second World War he registered as a conscientious objector, holding out for exemption without conditions. Two tribunals did not see eye to eye with him and he spent three months in Strangeways prison, thinking through his position, reading economics, and later using the experience for a tract on prison reform, "A Snail's Progress". He then joined the Friends' Relief Service, where he met Janet Shea; they married in 1944 and their close and loving partnership lasted until her death in 2000.

From 1945 Carter was a Cambridge University lecturer in statistics, and from 1947 a fellow of Emmanuel College. His students saw him as a down-to-earth teacher, sensitive to their needs. In this period he was joint author of several books in economic methods and statistics. In the fierce controversies which engaged the economics faculty at the time, he is remembered as a man of principle, with independent views, who would not have taken kindly to suggestions from others on how he might vote; even senior figures found him somewhat formidable.

In early 1952 he took up the chair of applied economics at the Queen's University, Belfast, and began a lasting interest and involvement in Irish affairs. He concluded early that the Unionist hegemony in Northern Ireland was unsustainable and the source of deeply felt grievance among the Catholics, but nor did he buy in to misty-eyed republicanism. The Northern Ireland Problem (1962), written with Denis Barritt, reflected this approach and is still referred to as a significant marker.

He objected to the hijacking of the name "Ulster" by Unionists, and when asked to give a series of lectures in Ulster towns, he made his point by giving some of them in that part of the historic province which had been left in the Republic. He later chaired the Northern Ireland Economic Development Council and at the time a bold step for a Belfast academic advised the government of the Irish Republic on capital investment and on higher education. Four of his honorary degrees were from Irish universities, north and south.

At this time he began the collaboration with B.R. Williams, then at Keele, which produced three important books on industry and innovation, Industry and Technical Progress (1957), Investment in Innovation (1958) and Science in Industry (1959). These were the outcome of a major research project, with influential sponsorship and enough funds to employ 11 staff, to investigate why technical progress in British industry was not faster and more effective. Williams was responsible for the case studies and Carter for the statistical and analytical work. The project was a pioneering step in systematic empirical investigation into British business, a field then barely developed, and had a significant influence in business and business education, if not in academic economics.

Carter was joint editor of the Journal of Industrial Economics for six years and of the Economic Journal for nine years, and editor of Policy Studies for eight. His service on the EJ was not uncontroversial since, despite his own mastery of mathematics and statistics, he felt that many over-formalised and abstract articles made no contact with reality. His own short and readable book, Wealth (1968), slays several sacred cows and was ahead of its time in stressing that human happiness and civilisation are not the same as the level of GNP per head.

In 1959 he moved to the Stanley Jevons chair in Manchester, but after four years he became the founding Vice-Chancellor of the new University of Lancaster. He acted speedily and the first 264 students were admitted in 1964, a year ahead of schedule, in a disused warehouse in Lancaster. The site was three miles south of the town, on a windy hogsback alongside the M6, but colleges and departments soon populated an interlocking network of quadrangles and pathways.

Carter's academic creativity, his ability to foresee the movement of academic thought, and his personal, if somewhat aloof, integrity, laid the foundations of a university which quickly reached a distinctive position amongst the top dozen in Britain. It was not exempt from the student troubles of the later Sixties, but when an occupation brought the university to a standstill he acted firmly, calling in the police, despite his Quaker leaning towards peaceful settlements whenever possible, and hence at great personal cost.

In response to a bishop's suggestion that there should be a chair of religion, he said "Yes, but not one of Christian theology" and the department opened all religion to objective study. Ever a realist, he said once, as we sat around the table after interviewing for a chair and finding no candidate perfect, "You always think the next post will bring an application from the Archangel Gabriel." He was deeply interested in how people learn he persuaded Lancaster to admit people who had learnt at work and in life rather than through formal study, and promoted the Learning through Experience Trust.

Throughout his life, Carter found time to serve causes he felt to be worthwhile, most often in the chair of a public, academic or professional body, on matters which included schools broadcasting, the accountancy profession, regional economic planning, social policy, international trade in commodities, the metric system, the development of social studies, technology and higher education. He chaired the Post Office Review Committee of 1976-77 which showed how telecommunications and the postal services could be separated, and thus led to the birth of BT. His 28 years service as a trustee of the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust (now the JR Foundation) gave scope for his Quaker social concern. He contributed significantly on the trust's finance and investment, and probingly questioned investment managers. He gave special attention to the programme on relations between central and local government. He was also a trustee of the Sir Halley Stewart Trust from 1969, serving as chair for 11 years, and in retirement gave much time to the Policy Studies Institute, bringing his strong convictions and deep concern for "the state of the nation".

On first encounter, despite a mild manner and a toothy grin, he appeared reserved, and he had no penchant for small talk. His style was unruffled and succinct. His postcards were famously brief: "Yes Charles" may be apocryphal, but "Not under any conditions Charles" is attested. Yet his wit was seldom far away "We must be subversive respectably subversive, of course." The imminence of such a mot was often signalled by the tip of his tongue briefly peeping out of a corner of his mouth. Amongst those he worked with, respect was soon joined by affection.

He was remarkably green-fingered and in retirement he created a lovely garden at Seascale in Cumbria.

Grigor McClelland


The Guardian, August 2nd, 2002

In April 1963 the economist Sir Charles Carter, who has died aged 82, moved from his chair at Manchester University to Lancaster. There he received the blueprints for the academic and the physical and financial shape of the University of Lancaster and he was to stay at the university, as

vice-chancellor until 1979.

Lancaster was one of six much publicised universities Sussex, York, Warwick, Essex and Stirling were the others initiated by Harold Macmillan's Conservative government in the early 1960s as a response to the higher education

crisis. With a tiny group of senior officers, the university was ready to take in its first 264 students, with staff to teach them, and temporary premises in Lancaster to house them, in October 1964.

The vice-chancellors of these green field campus universities were enabled to operate, from their opening days, with the powers bestowed by charter and statutes, rather than as university colleges. They could determine, from the

outset who to admit, what to teach, and how to examine, as well as to buy and sell property, receive exchequer resources and raise private funds.

Carter was far in advance of his time in embracing student participation in decision-making bodies, his commitment to management and business studies, and his fundamental belief in the transmission of culture. He advocated the widening of participation decades before it became fashionable, and encouraged links with higher education colleges in the region for whom Lancaster's flexible degree

structure and degree-awarding powers assisted their own development.

From the outset Carter analysed the teaching provision students were receiving. There were considerable challenges . Student numbers were more variable than

expected, the early withdrawal of capital funding for student accommodation meant that other sources of funding were needed. His belief in the rationality of students took a knock when it became clear that without a disciplinary code

the university could become unmanageable, while student unrest in the early 1970s was problematic for a man of such integrity and principles.

The son of an electricial engineer' and fellow of the Royal Society and a mother who was active in the Society of Friends, Carter was born in Rugby and was a day boy at Rugby School. He graduated from St John's College Cambridge with a first in mathematics and economics.

A lieflong Quaker, during the second world war he was a conscientous objector which earned him three months in Manchester's Strangeways Prison. He then from 1941 to 1945 worked for the Friends' Relief Service.

After a lectureship in statistics at Cambridge from 1945 to 1951 he became professor of applied economics at the Queen's University Belfast (1952-1959) he developed an interest in Ireland which led to advisory appointments in the

republic and the north then held the Stanley Jevons chair of political economy at Manchester University from 1958 until he went to Lancaster in 1963.

Although an austere and at times distant figure, Carter was a highly effective planner and administrator. He had the gift of taking an acute interest in minutiae while never losing sight of the larger picture. He had a legendary ability to analyse complex situations in a sentence or two and reach the right solution. Despite joking about about being surrounded by the evidence of his past mistakes, he had an ability to appoint staff whose careers brought lustre

to Lancaster's reputation.

His publications included Industry And Technical Progress (1957), Investment In Innovation (1958) and Science In Industry (1959) co-authored with Bruce Williams

which were major contributions to innovation economics. In 1962 he co-authored The Northern Ireland Problem with Denis Barritt, while his Higher Education For The Future(1980) is less well-read than it deserves to be. Amongst his many editorships, he had a distinguished period at the Economic Journal from 1961 to 1970.

After his retirement from Lancaster in 1979 he moved to Seascale in Cumbria. His many posts included membership of the Northern Ireland Economic Council (1977-87), and joint presidency of the Policy Studies Institute (1991-97). He

was knighted in 1978 and was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees.

His wife Janet predeceased him, he is survived by two daughters and a son.

Marion McClintock

Charles Frederick Carter, academic born August 15 1919; died June 27 2002


Whitehaven News, Thursday August 22nd 2002.

It may seem a little incongruous that the small Quaker meeting in Whitehaven had for several years as its treasurer a former Professor of Applied Economics at Queens University, Belfast. It was in the nature of Charles Carter to treat such humble work as seriously as his duties as the founding Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University, which will hold a service in his memory on September 21, or his service to the Northern Planning Council from 1977-1987.

It is impossible to understand the national importance of his work as an economist without appreciating that his lifelong Quaker faith was the motivation for everything he did. In an article in The Independent, Grigor McClelland describes his short and readable book, Wealth as "years ahead of its time in stressing that human happiness and civilisation are not the same as the level of GNP per head". His twenty-eight years service as a trustee of the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust, enabled him to put into action his Quaker principle that wealth should be put to the service of those in greatest need, and he has remained disappointed with the Labour Govermnet's reluctance to pursue an 'ethical taxation policy'. His instinct to seek peaceful resolution of conflicts drew him into lasting involvement with Irish affairs, based upon an amazingly fair and even-handed appreciation of conflicting positions. He was consulted by Mo Mowlam in her attempts to secure the peace process when she was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Whitehaven Quakers came to take for granted his presence in their meeting, and continued to gain inspiration from him when they held meetings for worship with him in a room at West Cumberland Hospital following his seizure with a stroke last year. After his death near the home of his daughter, Felicity, in Glasgow on June 27, they now feel that they have a duty to bear witness to his insight into the greatest problems of our time. His sense of a need for an ethical foreign policy would not compromise with political expediency.

In 1998 he urged Quakers to "offer a clear witness to the needs of an ethical foreign policy, which is surely inconsistent with the Government's instant support for bomb raids and its continued acceptance of sanctions against Iraq". Today we need his clear calm authority to condemn the arrogance that assumes that military might should ride roughshod over all the principles of international law, or treat the lives of those living in Palestine, Afghanistan or Iraq as more expendable than the lives of those living in the USA, Israel or Britain. Nevertheless, and in spite of having served a prison sentence as a conscientious objector during the war, he clearly recognised that a soldier could be doing the work of God, and reassured a Friend troubled by her grandson's choice of an army career that he should be congratulated on following his own calling.

He met Janet Shea in the Friends Relief Service, married her in 1944, and together they made a wonderful team until her death in 2000. They always had time for individuals, found words of comfort for everyone in trouble. Their lovely garden in Gosfort Road, Seascale nourished plants form all over the world and miraculously protected them from the ravages of the salt spray driven in by Irish Sea gales.

Though inspired by George Fox's emphasis on the prophetic role of Jesus, he had no patience with the belief that Christianity offers the only way to an undersanding of God.

He always showed great respect for the insights of other faiths, and as Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University insisted that the Chair of Religion should not be a Chair of Christian Theology. His open-mindedness is enshrined in "Quaker Faith and Practice", the Society of Friends Book of Discipline.

True faith is not assurance, but the readiness to go forward experimentally, without assurance. It is a sensitivity to things not yet known. Quakerism should not claim to be a religion of certainty, but a religion of uncertainty; it is this which gives us our special affinity to the world of science.

For what we apprehend of truth is limited and partial, and experience may set it all in a new light; if we too easily satisfy our urge for security by claiming that we have found certainty, we shall no longer be sensitive to new experiences of truth. For who seeks that which he belives that he has found? Who explores a territory which he claims already to know?