Global Development Institute Blog

It is with great sadness that the Global Development Institute, The University of Manchester reports the passing of Colin Fuller on Wednesday 6 April at the age of 89. Colin was a Senior Lecturer at the Institute’s original structures: the Department of Administrative Studies (DAS) and Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM), for almost 30 years. He was one of the earliest appointments of DAS’s founder, Professor Arthur Livingstone, in the late 1960s and he taught at DAS and IDPM until his retirement in the late 1990s.  We, David and Jayne, both met Colin who was Acting Head of DAS, when we joined the Department in 1985.

Colin was a larger-than-life figure at the University. Always smiling, always with a joke to tell, always in a suit and tie, and always with time for everyone – colleagues, students, visitors. He taught public service management and will be fondly remembered by thousands of alumni, many now retired from senior public service positions in Asia, Africa, the United Nations and other international development agencies. For many years he ran DAS/IDPM’s Senior Management Programme a continuing professional educational initiative targeting public servants who were moving on to ‘fast track’ careers. He also taught with a passion – extensively on academic programmes: the PG Diploma in Development Administration (DDA) and the MSc’s in Human Resource Management (HRM) and Human Resource Development (HRD).

From his ‘first job’, in District Administration in Kenya, Colin was committed to raising the capacity of the public services in developing countries to ‘deliver’ services to their citizens. For him the biggest obstacles to achieving improved human well-being were not in policy-formulation but in policy-implementation: ensuring that technically well-trained staff had the facilities, resources and motivation to make schools and health services meet citizen needs and that district commissioners (DCs) maintain law and order. Colin brought his substantial personal experience of administration and management in rural Kenya, strengthened by consultancy experience for national governments and aid donor agencies in Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and other regions of Africa, to create programmes that raised the capacity of thousands of individuals and hundreds of agencies. While he was happy to delve into theory, he was committed to ensuring that training remained practical and applied so that students, or ‘fellows’ as they were called in the 1960/1970s, could return to their ‘office’ with new practical skills and abilities.

DAS/IDPM’s many alumni will have their own fond memories of time with Colin, but I suspect that there are two particular activities that they will remember best. The first is fieldwork into which Colin put enormous amounts of energy arranging visits and attachments with partner institutions in Great Britain and Ireland, Malta, India, the Gambia and other countries. I  (David) was privileged to take over arranging fieldwork for the PG Diploma in Development Administration in the late 1980s and, when I arrived in Ireland with 25 students I found that I was stepping into the shoes of a ‘legend’. Colin had got to know the leaders of Ireland’s national development agencies, regional authorities and universities personally and we were welcomed with great enthusiasm. His was a big footprint. Students on fieldtrips organised by Colin did an 0800 to 1800 working day five, and often six, days a week: lectures, briefings, interviews, examination of administrative systems, visits to multiple field sites/clients and preparation of reports for a minimum of 10 hours a day. But, at the end of the day, they would sit down and have fun while reflecting on what they had learnt.  I (Jayne) had the pleasure of accompanying Colin on fieldwork to Ireland and Malta – and his network of contacts at overseas institutions and ability to tap into contacts in other parts of the world was superb.  He led the study group with great humour and sense of purpose and touched all of us who worked with him.

The second activity for which alumni will remember Colin at are the DAS/IDPM social events and parties that Colin hosted and enjoyed (often accompanied by his wife, Hazel). A glass of red wine in hand (sometimes a cigarette in the other) Colin would regale students with accounts of his experiences around the world and the challenges and paradoxes of trying to get public management services to function effectively. Wherever Colin was there was companionship, laughter and, when needed, great personal and professional support.  At his house, his generosity of spirit shone through and after the conversation and the good food and wine, there was also dancing to the midnight hours.  Hazel shares many of Colin’s qualities and in her own quiet and modest way, hosted our students and colleagues with great fondness and humility and when I (Jayne) bumped into her a couple of years ago – with Colin – her recall of students and those early days in IDPM was fascinating to listen to.

Colin was popular with students and colleagues alike, and in particular was very supportive of administrative staff at a time when their work was sometimes overlooked. He always took time to explain the context and background to a task, treated everyone with respect and made the secretarial team feel part of the Institute and valued.  He knew how to relate to colleagues and took the time to get to know colleagues and to listen, and he had trusted admin colleagues to work autonomously and took on board their views and suggestions.  I (Jayne) learnt a great deal from Colin about ways to motivate and delegate work effectively, and his influence on me in my early days at the University, set me off on the right track as I began my long career at Manchester. Thank you Colin, on behalf of many admin staff – Debra, Kellie and Maggie too – for your leadership and support.

Colin Fuller retired from the University 24 years ago. That is time that could be forgotten – but, for many alumni hearing of Colin’s death will be the saddest news and each will have their own very happy and fond memories of Colin. On behalf of University colleagues (past and present) and DAS/IDPM alumni please do raise a glass (ideally with a good red wine in it) and say “Thank you Colin for your limitless energy, warm humour, and loud laughter…you will be missed”.

David Hulme and Jayne Hindle, University of Manchester friends and colleagues