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Letters From ~ 14 

Letter from England

Chris Duke's influence on global

adult education movement  

Alan Tuckett

In 1991 I was in Harbin, China, as part of a delegation invited by Chinese colleagues to see in-service vocational training.  The visit had been delayed for two years because of the student demonstrations and violent State response in 1989, and we were among the first Western visitors since then.  At a banquet organised by the Harbin Ball Bearing Factory the first question we were asked was whether we knew Chris Duke, who had been such an inspirational colleague.  The same thing happened at Changchung film studios, and at Dalian shipyard.

Chris Duke’s combination of skills as an incomparable networker, mentor, and organiser, combined with relentless hard work characterised my own experience of working with him, and the echo of his engagement at ANU in Canberra, as vice-president of the International Council of Adult Education (ICAE) and as Secretary General of the Asian South Pacific Bureau for Adult Education (as ASPBAE was then called), his energy.

My own contact with Chris began with our

shared involvement with the equality and

diversity committees of the National Institute

of Adult Continuing Education, contact that

intensified when I went to work for NIACE

in 1988, and again when he invited me to

be a visiting professor at Warwick University

in 1994.  I discovered another characteristic

of working alongside Chris – his elusiveness.  I saw him on campus just once in my time there – but we did meet at an event of the Royal Society in London.


Somehow Chris managed to work in Australia and England when he led NIACE’s higher education work whilst also at Melbourne’s RMIT, managing his garden in France, and maintaining a stream of academic publications.  Despite frenetic travelling and a huge workload, he was immensely supportive to colleagues, and a key innovator – early in supporting credit accumulation and transfer, and in work with the learning cities movement, its NGO network and this newsletter, and as far as I can see he is just as active in retirement (notably in his work with Heribert Hinzen) as during his formal working life. 

Overall, he has been a major support in the growth off the global adult learning movement, and a huge influence on my own working life


Alan Tuckett is emeritus professor of education at the University of Wolverhampton, England. Chris won’t know that part of my responsibility at Clapham-Battersea Adult Education Institute was to preside annually as President on the prize evening of the Battersea Winemakers’ Society.

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