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. He is also chairman of the advisory council of International Schools Partnership. ISP raised £200m and is investing in schools around the world, starting with Spain and the UK.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Lee attended school in Gillingham before winning the highly coveted 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. Harkness Fellowships were funded by the Harkness family foundation, the Commonwealth Fund of New York, and were set up by Edward Harkness - a major benefactor on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1925 the Fund's Board issued the following Statement; "...International understanding can be forwarded in no more practicable way than through the provision of international opportunities for education and travel to young men and women of character and ability. Such men and women, potentially leaders in their own country, becoming familiar through residence and education with the institutions, customs and ways of thinking of the people of another country, cannot but be a force for mutual understanding and good feeling. Secondly, the importance of unity of thought and purpose on the part of the two great English speaking nations of the world lends a special value to reciprocal educational opportunities in the two countries..." <The Harkness Fellows Association>


Having taught law at Trinity College, Oxford, and then King's College London, in 1989 at the age of only 31 he was appointed Professor of Jurisprudence at Queen's University, Belfast. 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. This encouraged community groups and individuals to think and discuss the options for the future in a way that had been unimaginable before. Consequently, the wider community "began to have greater confidence in putting forward its views and engaging with the political process and politicians from whom it had felt alienated for so long" <Conciliation Resources>. "It was increasingly clear that he combined a passion for his faith with a deep commitment to education, ecumenism, peace, and partnership" <citation for Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Virginia Theological Seminary 2011, 2011>. On his return from Queen's Professor Lee became a Gresham Professor of Law (1995-1998)([4])following in the footsteps of thinkers across arts & sciences, such as Sir Christopher Wren. Lee's immediate predecessor in law was Sir David Calcutt QC.

From 1995 to 2003 Lee was Chief Executive and Rector of Liverpool Hope University. Within weeks of Professor Simon 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" <Liverpool Hope University> Hope became the first college in the UK to secure degree-awarding powers under the government's new system. 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 the late Lord Bishop David Sheppard, who described him as a person of "flair and imagination". At this time, led by Lee, 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). 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. "And all of these connections were born out of his sense of call to service as a Christian and a Roman Catholic. This faith disposition has also characterized his scholarship. He is the author of some eight books, one of which, Believing Bishops, was credited as the text that anticipated the rising star of Archbishop George Carey, before he was made Archbishop. Lee has written extensively on medical ethics; his book, Uneasy Ethics, was highly acclaimed for the imaginative way in which the complex fields of ethics and law are woven together. Today 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. 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>.[5]

Following his appointment as Vice-Chancellor at Leeds Metropolitan University in 2003, he announced in his inaugural lecture[6] 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" <Conference Leeds>) together with other award-winning estate developments he initiated. 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. Of the Carnegie Pavilion and Media Centre for cricket at the stadium, designed by Will Alsop, "The new Carnegie Pavilion is the first of its kind - a real dual-use building giving university students and sporting professionals access to state of the art shared space. We believe it will be another iconic building for Leeds and Yorkshire." 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. 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. In 2007, the University won national 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. .[7] Lee replaced the university's previous owl logo with a Yorkshire rose.

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 pioneering Network of Hope partnership. He suggested ‘educating the whole person’ to sum up Liverpool Hope, adding ‘in mind, body and spirit.’[8]

Professor Lee currently undertakes a research leadership role at the Open University, details of which can be found at On 4 May 2017, Professor Lee gave his inaugural lecture on 'Open & Shut Cases' at The Open University and answered questions from the audience. A short supporting interview associated to this provides a thoughtful reflection on this lecture


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Advisory Council". International Schools Partnership. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  3. ^ "Exclusive: International Schools Partnership raises c£200m from private investors". Investor Publishing. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  4. ^ Gresham Professor of Law
  5. ^ "Hope rector becomes Leeds Met VC". The Guardian. London. 3 September 2002. 
  6. ^ Simon Lee, "Beyond Boundaries: Bradford to Brown to Botham"[dead link], Leeds Metropolitan University, 18 November 2003.
  7. ^ Wilson, Andy (6 April 2006). "From ivory tower to sporting cathedral". The Guardian. London. 
  8. ^ "Honorary Doctorate". Liverpool Hope University. Retrieved 24 February 2017.