Dr William Plowden

Category: All Harkness Stories /  Higher Education /  Politics & Public Services /  Up to 1959 / 

Dr William Plowden (CFF 1958-59) (d. 2010) saw his Commonwealth Fund Fellowship as liberating and transformative in the same way as reading history at Cambridge after two years National Service, or even more so. He spent it at the University of California Berkeley Institute of Political Science and Government, with Nelson Polsby. He shared a room, and indeed a car which meant they had the use of it for most of the year, with Tony Tanner (d.1998). Returning from his fellowship, William spent a year at The Economist before joining the Board of Trade where he was private secretary to Edward Heath. He left Whitehall to become a lecturer in the Government Department at LSE. While there he wrote his first book The Motor Car and Politics (1970). Invited by his former boss, now the PM, William became a founder member of the Central Policy Review Staff, CPRS, known as the Think Tank (1971 to 1977). After a brief spell as Under Secretary at the Department of Industry he headed the Royal Institute for Public Administration for 10 years from 1978. He was a visiting professor at LSE in the 1980s and again from 2002, a governor from 1992 and a member of the Council for several years. He was a member of the Harkness selection committee in the 1980s, and visited current fellows in their US placements, and as Director of the UK Harkness Fellowships in New York (1988-91) he led the redesign of the programme for the Commonwealth Fund, continuing to lead the programme back in the UK until 1998. He was a founder member of the HFA. For the rest of his working life, as a consultant to developing countries’ governments, William went on developing and disseminating his ideas about effective government originating in his Harkness Fellowship, as well as his life-long love of America.