Moray House School of Education and Sport

Gordon Kirk

Gordon Kirk, Principal of Moray House College of Education from 1981, was born in Dunfermline in 1938 and educated at Camphill Secondary School, Paisley.

Early career

He studied at Glasgow University, obtaining an MA in English Language and Literature. After a year at Jordanhill College of Education he was awarded his TQ (Chapter V English and Article 39 History), and the Diploma in Education, in 1961. He served as an English teacher at Albert Secondary School in Glasgow during which time he also studied at Glasgow University for his MEd awarded in 1964.

He was appointed to the post of Lecturer in Education at the University of Aberdeen in 1965 where he worked alongside Professor John Nisbet and Noel Entwistle. He became Head of the Department of Education at Jordanhill College of Education in 1974.

Principalship of Moray House

In 1981 Gordon Kirk became Principal of Moray House College of Education in Edinburgh. His principalship was coterminous with a phase of significant course and institutional development.

He had been a member of the Council for National Academic Awards’ Inservice Teacher Education Board since 1976 and this experience proved invaluable at Moray House.

From 1981 the College embarked on an extensive programme of external validation of its courses through the CNAA. As a result of this programme the College was in a position to offer in excess of 10 undergraduate degree programmes in teaching, community education and social work, an extensive range of post-graduate and masters degree programmes for serving professionals.

He became a member of CNAA’s Council in 1987.

Developments at Moray House

This programme of course development and diversification was accompanied by the strengthening of partnership with the various professions in all aspects of the College’s work, including student selection, course planning, course approval and assessment, and a policy of seconding teachers from schools and professionals from other services to enrich its work.

It was also marked by an increase in the amount of research and development work undertaken by College staff, and by a programme of staff development.

These substantial changes in the range and level of work required revised policies and procedures for decision-making, institutional governance, departmental structure, the identification of institutional priorities, staffing, and resource allocation.

It was a feature of the many independent reports on the work of the College over these years that its courses were highly commended, as were its culture and institutional climate, together with the management infrastructure and support systems.

The consolidation of the colleges

Gordon Kirk’s principalship was also marked by Moray House’s involvement in a series of major institutional alliances, reflecting changes in the wider context of higher education in Scotland.

In 1981, Callendar Park College of Education was closed and its staff, students and resources transferred to Moray House. In 1986, the Secretary of State intimated a further reduction in the size of the college system: Dunfermline College of Physical Education was to be closed and all of Scotland’s training of Physical Education teachers concentrated at Moray House.

In 1991, in anticipation of the closure of the CNAA, a formal linkage was established with Heriot Watt University, whereby Moray House retained its independence, but its programmes were approved by Heriot-Watt and students graduated with awards of that university.

In response to further pressures to enhance the quality of its work, in the face of intensifying fiscal stringency, and with a deteriorating relationship with Heriot Watt University, Professor Kirk opened discussions in July 1996 with the University of Edinburgh.

These culminated in the merger of Moray House within the University of Edinburgh, as its Faculty of Education, in 1998. Professor Kirk served as Dean of the Faculty of Education from 1998 to 2002 and at the end of this period was appointed Vice-Principal of the University retiring in 2003.


During his career he was closely involved in many aspects of Scottish education and of the development of teacher education.

He was a member of the Munn Committee that investigated the structure of the secondary school curriculum, reporting 1977. As Dean he was involved in the development of the Standard for Chartered Teacher in Scotland.

Throughout his career, Professor Kirk served on a number of national bodies: he was chair of the Scottish Council for Research in Education (1984-1992); chair of the Educational Broadcasting Council for Scotland (1986-1991); and Vice-Convener of The General Teaching Council for Scotland from 1992 to 2001. He served on a number of other bodies, including the Higher Education Quality Council and the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum, and undertook consultancy work in a number of overseas countries, including Norway, Canada, Mexico, Argentina and South Africa.

Professor Kirk contributed in excess of 120 articles to professional and academic journals, his main areas of interest being the education of teachers, partnership in teacher education, the work of the General Teaching Councils, and quality assurance in teacher education.

He was the author of several books:

  • Curriculum and Assessment in the Scottish Secondary School (1982)
  • The Core Curriculum (1986)
  • Teacher Education and Professional Development (1988)
  • Enhancing Quality in Teacher Education (2000)
  • Moray House and the Road to Merger (2002)
  • The Chartered Teacher (2003) [Authored with others]

He also edited two books on Moray House, which were collections of essays written by members of staff and intended to portray the life and work of the College at different stages of its development: Moray House and Professional Education (1985) and Moray House and Change in Higher Education (1995). In collaboration with Bob Glaister of the Open University he edited some 30 books on educational developments in Scotland.

Gordon Kirk was awarded the OBE in the New Year Honours List in 2003 and in the same year received an honorary degree from the University of Paisley, both in recognition of his services to teacher education.