Simon Lee (academic)

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Simon Francis Lee (born 29 March 1957 in Gillingham, Kent) is a Professor of Law and Director of Citizenship & Governance Research at The Open University,[1] Visiting Fellow, St Edmund's College, Cambridge, and Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence at Queen's University Belfast.

Early life[edit]

Lee attended school in Gillingham before winning the Brackenbury scholarship to read Jurisprudence at Balliol College, Oxford, where in 1977 he won the Sweet & Maxwell Prize for the University of Oxford "Best Distinction in Law Moderations", in 1978 the Winter Williams Essay Prize and in 1979 took first class honours. He then attended Yale Law School studying for the LLM as a Harkness Fellow.


Having taught law at Trinity College, Oxford, and then King's College London, in 1989 he was appointed Professor of Jurisprudence at Queen's University, Belfast.[citation needed]

Dean Godson, in Himself Alone, his 2004 (HarperCollins) biography of David Trimble (who went on to become First Minister of Northern Ireland and to win the Nobel Peace Prize), wrote that Lee's appointment in the 1988 at the age of 31 to the chair of jurisprudence at Queen's University Belfast, ahead of the insider candidate David Trimble, was because he was a 'superstar' academic 'with good media credentials' (p. 93). He then became a regular commentator on BBC television and radio in Northern Ireland and in the press.

Whilst at Queen's he co-founded, with Robin Wilson, [Initiative ‘92, "A citizens’ inquiry"] through which opinions were sought across the Northern Ireland community and political parties on ways forward and was chaired by Torkel Opsahl from Norway. On his return from Queen's Professor Lee became Gresham Professor of Law (1995-1998).[citation needed]

From 1995 to 2003 Lee was Chief Executive and Rector of Liverpool Hope University. Within weeks of Lee being appointed Rector in 1995 the LIHE community and the Governing Council had agreed a new name, Hope, and a new mission statement – "Educating the whole person in mind, body and spirit"[citation needed] Hope became the first college in the UK to secure degree-awarding powers under the government's new system.[citation needed] Lee's leadership of this ecumenical church college is discussed in a book of essays, The Foundation of Hope, edited by R John Elford and published by Liverpool University Press in 2003. At Liverpool Hope he served under bishop David Sheppard, who described him as a person of "flair and imagination".[citation needed] At this time Hope was at the forefront of urban renewal (in particular the Arts Centre in Everton, Liverpool) and the arts (he chaired the Everyman and Playhouse Theatres).[citation needed] Hope won the Freedom of the City of Liverpool and a Queen's Anniversary Prize for the work of Hope One World with Tibetan refugee children in Ladakh. He is the author of eight books. Lee has written extensively on medical ethics. Today[when?] he is continuing to create partnership opportunities for organizations. He is the chair of a new charity inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI called the John Paul II Foundation For Sport.[citation needed] From Burnley Football Club to the University of Oxford, he is linking sport with education. The result of all these partnerships is to build stronger links between educational institutions, businesses, and the community". <Citation, 2011>.[2]

Following his appointment as Vice-Chancellor at Leeds Metropolitan University in 2003, he announced in his inaugural lecture[3] that the university would develop a Rose Bowl behind the Civic Hall which duly happened (it won the Design & Innovation category at the RICS Pro-Yorkshire Awards 2010 and "best new venue to the property industry") together with other estate developments he initiated.[citation needed] The partnership with Leeds Rugby resulted in the rugby and cricket stadium becoming an extension of the Headingley campus, with its Carnegie Stand for rugby giving the University's Carnegie campus a permanent base at the Stadium. The Carnegie Stand incorporates 12 classrooms and tripled the number of disabled spaces formerly available at Headingley Carnegie Stadium.[citation needed] The Carnegie Pavilion replaced the existing YCCC media and player facilities at Headingley Carnegie Stadium and enables the venue to continue to host international fixtures. The £21m Carnegie Pavilion project was supported by Yorkshire Forward, Leeds Council, HSBC, The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Sport England.

The university agreed to pay back £8 million of public money as the price for handing back its controlling interest in the rugby club, which was arranged by former vice-chancellor and rugby enthusiast Simon Lee, and described as "staggering" by Phil Willis MP.[4]

In the annual Times Higher Awards 2006, the University won the category of Outstanding Contribution by a University to the Local Community, for its work with Bradford City Football Club and the local Muslim community in Manningham, and silver for the overall University of the Year.[citation needed]

In 2007 the University won awards for Arts & Business, for its partnership with Northern Ballet, and for being the most environmentally friendly university in the country, in the inaugural league table compiled by the green action group, People & Planet. In 2008 the university won the bidding process for the UK Centre of Coaching Excellence through to the 2016 Olympics and the national award for the best coaching environment of any organization in the country. In 2009, the University came 3rd in the BUCS league table for all UK university sport, having risen from 27th during his leadership. .[5] Lee replaced the university's previous owl logo with a Yorkshire rose.

In November 2008, the chair of governors at Leeds Beckett University (then Leeds Metropolitan University), Ninian Watt, informed Professor Lee that serious complaints regarding his treatment of staff had been made by a number of staff in the university in such a way that these could not be ignored. Rather than face a suspension, Professor Lee opted to resign and signed a compromise agreement.[6]

Leeds Metropolitan University announced Simon Lee's resignation on 14 January 2009.[7]

On 26 January 2016 Liverpool Hope University presented Professor Lee with an honorary degree in recognition of his time as Rector & Chief Executive of Liverpool Hope University College from 1995-2003. During this time, he proposed the name 'Hope', the development of the Creative Campus at Everton, and the Network of Hope partnership. He suggested 'educating the whole person to sum up Liverpool Hope, adding 'in mind, body and spirit'.[8]

Lee currently undertakes a research leadership role at the Open University.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Hope rector becomes Leeds Met VC". The Guardian. London. 3 September 2002.
  3. ^ Simon Lee, "Beyond Boundaries: Bradford to Brown to Botham"[dead link], Leeds Metropolitan University, 18 November 2003.
  4. ^ "Exclusive: University to pay rugby club £8m over failed deal". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  5. ^ Wilson, Andy (6 April 2006). "From ivory tower to sporting cathedral". The Guardian. London.
  6. ^ "Leeds Met forced to reveal that Lee's exit followed governors' ultimatum". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  7. ^ "Anthea Lipsett, Shock as Leeds Metropolitan installs acting vice-chancellor, The Guardian, 29 January 2009"
  8. ^ "Honorary Doctorate". Liverpool Hope University. Retrieved 24 February 2017.