The BSA has expressed its regret at the death of Sir Robert Burgess, the sociologist and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester. Under Professor Burgess the university enjoyed great success, winning the ‘University of the Year’ at the 2008 Times Higher Education Awards.

Robert Burgess, born 23 April 1947, received his BA degree from the University of Durham in 1971 and his PhD from the University of Warwick in 1981. He began academic work as a lecturer at Warwick in 1971, becoming a senior lecturer in 1984, and Chair of the Sociology Department from 1985 to 1988. His career in administration progressed swiftly, and he was Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor from 1995–99.

In 1999 Professor Burgess moved to the University of Leicester as Vice-Chancellor, introducing changes that took the university into the top 20 in league tables. In awarding the University of the Year award, the judges described it as ‘elite without being elitist’. Professor Burgess retired in 2014. A commitment to expand and improve teaching facilities and accommodation led to some staff nicknaming him ‘Bob the Builder’.

His many other posts included chairing the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service and the Research Information Network. In 2007, he chaired a steering group that produced a report calling for the university degree classification system to be overhauled.

Professor Burgess was knighted in the 2010 New Year Honours for services to higher education locally and nationally, and was a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. He was President of the British Sociological Association from 1989 to 1991.

His publications include: Experiencing Comprehensive Education (1983); In the Field: An Introduction to Field Research (1984); Education, Schools and Schooling (1985); Sociology, Education and Schools (1986); and Research Methods (1993), together with more than 20 edited volumes on qualitative methods and education, and over 100 articles and book chapters.

He married Hilary Joyce in 1974 and listed his recreations as walking, music and gardening.