Professor Roger Webster

Presented by Roger Phillips

Roger Webster was born in Mossley Hill in the same hospital as Kim Cattrall – a fact he discovered many years later when he stood as her supporter on this stage when she became an Honorary Fellow of the University. I can’t remember if she began her acceptance speech with – I was born in the same hospital as Roger Webster but I’m sure she was delighted with the connection….

Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Professor Roger Webster, former Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professional and Social Studies and Professor of Literary Studies at the University for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University.

Roger spent the first 5 years of his life in Liverpool where his father was Head of English at the Liverpool Institute and taught Paul McCartney, George Harrison and others of that inspirational generation.

The family moved to Dorset when the young Roger was 6, leaving behind what he refers to as the black and white memories of overhead railways and trams.

Academia is a family calling and Roger studied English at Kings College in London before achieving a PhD for a thesis entitled ‘The Visual Imagination in the Novels of Thomas Hardy’.

Roger’s academic career progressed with teaching positions at the University of London, City and East London College and the American Institute but he truly found his home when he returned to Liverpool and became the youngest member of teaching staff in the English Department of the City of Liverpool College of Higher Education, which merged with other colleges around the city to become the Liverpool Polytechnic in 1970.

By the time the Polytechnic was granted University status in 1992, Roger, now a Professor in Literary Studies, was leading a new School in Media, Critical and Creative Arts. 

Drawing upon Liverpool’s legendary creative spirit and talent, Roger and his team developed a new portfolio of professional degrees in creative writing, journalism, criminology, media production laying the foundations for what is now an area of strength both in LJMU and the city in creative and broadcast media. 

The School’s innovative approach, one that is now widely adopted, but at the time was almost unique, was that it created programmes in collaboration with industry and Roger personally forged partnerships with external partners such as Mersey television, FACT, the Tate, Biennial and the numerous news platforms around the city.

These brokered relationships provided an authentic pathway for students into the new digital industries – it also paved the way for the city to become Capital of Culture. And as lead Dean of Faculty, he was also responsible for capital projects such as the John Lennon Art and Design Building and the Redmonds Building.

Long acknowledged as one of movers and shakers in the arts and cultural landscape of the city it is easy to forget that at heart Roger is still a true academic.  He has published widely on working class writing, literature and film, suburbia and literary theory. 

And even in retirement he has returned to his academic and literary roots; commissioned by the Vice Chancellor to write the History of the University, he has spent the last 18 months completing a book, which was launched last night, on the origins of Liverpool John Moores University.

Roger is truly part of that history, his is a story of commitment and passion for this University, he has dedicated his life to transforming the lives of his students and staff through the engine of higher education and it is a testament to his integrity and character that after a long career at the very top of this institution, the news of his Fellowship was met with widespread delight and affection.

So for his outstanding contribution to arts and cutural education, it gives me great personal pleasure to present Roger Webster for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.