Professor Franklin was Vice-Chancellor of City, University of London for 20 years

By Amy Ripley(PR & Communications Manager), Published

The physicist Professor Raoul Franklin CBE FREng has passed away at the age of 86.  Widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s leading experts in plasma physics, Professor Franklin was Vice-Chancellor of City, University of London for 20 years where he built many of the foundations that City stands on today.

He was the University’s longest serving Vice-Chancellor, holding the post from 1978 to 1998, as well as the position of professor of Plasma Physics and Technology at City from 1986 to 1998.   As Vice-Chancellor, he decided to switch the focus of the University from Engineering towards a much broader education and research portfolio.

He did this by working closely with industry, business, the NHS and other educational institutions to develop partnerships for enterprise, research and student placements.   This not only raised additional income for the University, but also resulted in City winning four Queen's Awards for Enterprise (for technology, in 1982 and 1985, and for export, in 1988 and 1991).

"The University for business and the professions"

His achievements at City included the successful incorporation of St Bartholomew’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and the Charterhouse School of Radiography. It was under his leadership that our previous strapline, “the University for business and the professions” was created.

Professor Franklin was born in Hamilton, New Zealand on 3 June 1935, the son of Norman George and Thelma Brinley (nee Davis) Franklin.  He was educated at Auckland Grammar School before studying at the University of New Zealand, where he took at BE and BSC in 1956.  In 1957, he headed to University of Auckland where he obtained an ME and MSc in mathematics.  Later that year, he moved to the UK and took his doctorate at the University of Oxford as a member of Christ Church, Oxford in 1961.

After working as a senior research fellow at the Royal Military College of Science from 1961 to 1963, he was a Fellow of Keble College, Oxford, from 1963 to 1978, and a university lecturer in Engineering Science from 1966 to 1978.

He was appointed an honorary fellow of Keble College in 1980, and appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1995. He served as chairman of the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) from 1998 to 2003, having served as chairman of Associated Examining Board, one of AQA's predecessor institutions, from 1994 to 1998. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a visiting fellow at the Open University.  He was the Foundation Master of the Worshipful Company of Educators.

City Icon

In 2019, City staff voted Professor Franklin as a City Icon, as part of the 125 Year Anniversary Celebrations.  The Franklin Building at 124 Goswell Road, home to City’s Marketing and External Relations Department and the Launch Lab, is named in his honour.

Professor Anthony Finklestein, President, City, University of London said:

“Raoul played an immense role in shaping City, stewarding it through a difficult period of growth and transformation, in a very uncertain environment. The institution we are proud to be part of is, in large part, the product of that stewardship.

"Raoul both championed and exemplified academic values. An outstanding and committed scientist, his instincts and understanding of scholarship were critical to embedding research within City. His skill at managing City’s governance and building a team around him garnered great respect. I was one of many younger academics who benefited from his support and advice. He will be missed personally and professionally. We will hold his legacy close.”

You can watch a short video about Professor Franklin here.