It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Professor John Last OBE on 9 August. John was a wise, witty and much-loved colleague and friend, and a champion of GuildHE’s work for many years. As Vice Chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts, he served on GuildHE’s Board and was Deputy Chair between 2013 and 2019.

Norwich University of the Arts became a university under John’s leadership. He understood what makes a successful higher education institution for students and for the wider community of Norwich and the region. John was committed to student engagement and success, aligning excellent academic teaching to industry practice, enabling the university’s graduates to have the skills to thrive in creative industry workplaces.

For GuildHE, John took part in projects relating to the contribution of specialist institutions to the UK economy and was a leading voice in many national conversations on the value of a diverse higher education sector.  He served on the Boards of HESA and the HEA as part of his significant contribution to the co-regulation of higher education.  

John was passionate about the transformative power of the creative arts. He was Chair of the UK Art and Design Institutions Association between 2015 and 2020 and worked with colleagues across the country to demonstrate the unique contribution of specialist arts institutions to the UK’s world leading creative industries and to champion the value of arts education for its own sake.

At work, John was highly supportive of colleagues at all levels, genuinely interested in the views of others and brought a truly inclusive approach to his work, providing opportunities and mentoring for many. Everyone at GuildHE who knew John valued his warm friendship, his humour and the great pleasure we all took in his company.

John will be deeply missed both in a professional and personal capacity and we convey our sincerest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.