Born in 1934, Robert Dixon-Smith is a farmer and politician. Educated at Oundle and Writtle Agricultural College, he served in the King's Dragoon Guards before turning his attentions to farming in 1958. He quickly became involved in local politics and served on Essex County Council for 27 years, as Chairman from 1986-1989. Throughout this time he remained devoted to the development of higher education services in the region. As Chairman of Governors of Essex Institute he was instrumental in achieving the merger with Cambridge College of Arts and Technology, and in the new institution achieving university status. He served as the first Chairman of Governors of the new University. In 1993 he was made a life peer and has since served on the European Select Committee, the Select Committee for Science and Technology, and as Shadow Minister for the Environment. In 2007 he was appointed Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government.
After the General Election in 2010 Lord Dixon-Smith left the Front Bench and is currently serving on the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee again.
In 1994 Lord Dixon-Smith was made Honorary Doctor of the University.
Lord Dixon-Smith was, until November 1993, the first Chairman of Governors of the University having previously been Chairman of one of its constituent colleges, Essex Institute, in the period 1983-89 leading up to the merger with Cambridgeshire College and the creation of Anglia in 1989.
Lord Dixon-Smith served on Essex County Council for 27 years, 13 of which as Chairman of its Personnel Committee. As Deputy Chairman and finally Chairman in the 1980s he was instrumental in transforming the role of the council into a forward-looking proactive one, playing a key role in encouraging and sustaining the economic development of the council.
Under his leadership the council, for example, sought to encourage the third London Airport after many years of ambivalence. It established an Economic Development Unit, began to promote tourism and inward investment, established closer liaison with industry and began to develop a European and international strategy. He led a deputation to China building on links established by Anglia Polytechnic University (as it has become now) which led to a twinning agreement with Jiangsu Province and a range of opportunities and contracts for Essex business.
At the same time he fostered a sense of financial realism into the council which resulted directly in the rationalisation of council property and the cost effective development of a fine rebuilding of County Hall, opened by Her Majesty the Queen.
Throughout these years, Lord Dixon-Smith has maintained a major involvement in the development of higher education in Essex and East Anglia. His support for the Government's policy of freeing the Higher Education Corporations from LEA control, despite often alienating him from council colleagues, played a significant part in the successful transfer of the Essex Institute in 1989 and his encouragement and guidance have been instrumental in achieving the merger between Essex Institute and Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (1989), Polytechnic designation for the emergent Anglia (1991) and finally its re-designation as Anglia Polytechnic University (1992). The creation of a unique new regional university serving four counties from a small local technical unwavering support. It is significant that he was the only local authority member who became Chairman of the Board of a new University, despite their recent local government patronage.
In 1993 Bill Dixon-Smith received a life peerage and is now contributing to the House of Lords with the same energy, wisdom and enthusiasm that he led Anglia.
It is with great pleasure that we recognise his unique contribution to its success by awarding Lord Dixon-Smith of Bocking an Honorary Doctorate of the University.