Michael Eraut obituary

Other lives: Renowned professor of education at Sussex University whose research into workplace learning and professional development continues to have global influence

My friend and mentor Michael Eraut, who has died aged 77, was a renowned professor of education at Sussex University. His research into learning in the workplace, non-formal learning and professional development continues to have global influence across a range of professions.

Michael’s early work in educational technology and curriculum development at the university’s Centre for Educational Technology, which he helped develop, soon gained international acclaim and brought invitations to do consultancy work in many countries. He spent the rest of his academic career at Sussex, including six years as director of the Institute for Continuing and Professional Education (1986-91). His best-known book, Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence (1994), remains a seminal text in the field. He was latterly involved in the evolution of the new Sussex and Brighton Medical School.

I first met him as a mid-career medical practitioner studying for a doctorate at Sussex. Like many others I benefited from his academic prowess and intellectual incisiveness, and he will also be remembered for his insights and personal warmth.

Michael was born in Rawalpindi, then in British India, now Pakistan, while his father, Ruarc Eraut, was a lieutenant colonel serving with the British army. His mother, Frances (nee Hurst), was a Froebel-trained teacher, and significantly guided his early education.

He first came to the UK with his family in 1947 on the Empire Windrush, which started the Caribbean run the following year. He was a scholar at Winchester college, where he came to love classical music and Russian literature, and also won prizes for athletics and gymnastics. In 1959 he won a scholarship to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, to read natural sciences. Through a shared love of music he met Cynthia Wynne, who was reading classics at Girton College and who played the violin. They married in 1964.

He completed his PhD in organic chemistry at Cambridge in 1965. During this time his interest in teaching and learning emerged, when he was asked to supervise some deaf undergraduates. While this experience contributed to his lifelong studies in education, his scientific background enabled him to interact with a range of scientists in later years. After two years as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Michael joined Sussex in 1967.

He retired in 2006, and did consultancy work for Surrey University, the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Australian National University.

He retained an interest in music and sport all his life, and also loved walking on the Sussex Downs near his home in Lewes.

He is survived by Cynthia, their sons, Patrick and Christopher, and grandchildren, Ayane and Mishka, and by his brother, Dennis.

Neil Munro

The GuardianTramp

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