David Bell (university administrator)

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Sir David faces protestors over £36m PAS review and wholesale restructuring plans

Sir David Robert Bell KCB (born March 1959 in Glasgow) is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading.[1] He was previously Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education[2] and its predecessor departments from 3 January 2006 until 2012. Before that he was Chief Inspector of Schools at the Office for Standards in Education from 2002.[3]

Early career[edit]

Bell studied history and philosophy at Glasgow University and obtained his PGCE from Jordanhill College of Education. He also has a Master of Education degree in management and administration from Glasgow University. Bell then held teaching posts at primary schools in Glasgow, moving on to become a deputy head, and then a headteacher at Kingston Primary School, in Thundersley, Essex.[4]

Educational administration[edit]

In 1990, Bell became assistant director of education at Newcastle City Council. During this time he spent a year as a Harkness Fellow at Georgia State University, Atlanta, studying education and local government reform across the United States of America. Bell trained as an Ofsted team inspector in 1993. He became a Registered Inspector in 1994 and carried out inspections in primary schools. He was promoted to director of education and libraries at Newcastle City Council in 1995 and became chief executive of Bedfordshire County Council in 2000.[4]

Educational standards[edit]

Bell took up his post as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools on 1 May 2002.[5] He was Chief Inspector for over three years and, in January 2006, he became Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education and Skills, named the Department for Children, Schools and Families from June 2007, and then the Department for Education from May 2010.[2]

University of Reading[edit]

In 2012, Sir David left the civil service to become the Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading, despite never having been an academic. He succeeded Gordon Marshall.[1]

Reading Controversy[edit]

Public opinion swayed against Sir David in March 2016 with staff running a vote of no confidence against him as head of the University executive.[6] Students and staff also disrupted the University's 90th Birthday celebrations, preventing a planned record breaking chairlift attempt. This was following his decision to spend £36 million on a consultation with PwC in a move to reorganise the entire administrative structure of the University of Reading within one year. It is suggested as many as 1700 jobs have been put at risk, and these moves were decided without disclosure or consultation with staff or students. [7] In the same year as many staff were faced with redundancy or downgrading, he was awarded a £26,000 pay increase, whilst already earning over a quarter of a million pounds per year.

Personal life[edit]

Bell was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 2011 Birthday Honours.[8]


  1. ^ a b "University of Reading appoints Permanent Secretary for Education as new Vice-Chancellor". University of Reading Press Releases. University of Reading. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "David Bell Named as new Permanent Secretary at Department for Education and Skills". Department for Children, Schools and Families. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  3. ^ "University welcomes new Vice-Chancellor". Press Release. University of Reading. 2012-01-04. Archived from the original on 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  4. ^ a b A & C Black (2015). "BELL, Sir David (Robert)". Who's Who 2016. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2016-03-13. 
  5. ^ "David Bell - Permanent Secretary, Department for Children, Schools and Families". UK Civil Service. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  6. ^ http://www.readingchronicle.co.uk/news/14287126.Fears_for_job_losses_could_see_university_chief_come_under_fire/
  7. ^ Hyde, Nathan. "Cost-cutting review slammed by University of Reading student". getreading. Retrieved 2016-03-13. 
  8. ^ "No. 59808". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2011. p. 2. 

Offices held[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Mike Tomlinson
Chief Inspector at Ofsted
Succeeded by
Maurice Smith
as Interim
Preceded by
Sir David Normington
Permanent Secretary of the
Department for
Education and Skills

Succeeded by
Preceded by
as PUS, DfES
Permanent Secretary of the
Department for Children,
Schools and Families

Succeeded by
as PUS, DfE
Preceded by
Permanent Secretary of the
Department for Education

Succeeded by
Tom Jeffery
as Acting
Academic offices
Preceded by
Gordon Marshall
Vice-chancellor of the
University of Reading