Professor Nigel South to retire after almost 50 years association with Essex

  • Date

    Thu 9 Dec 21

Portrait photo of Professor Nigel South

Internationally renowned sociologist and criminologist, Professor Nigel South, is retiring at the end of December after nearly half a century in the field, starting and ending with the University of Essex.

The ground-breaking academic was one of the first criminologists to highlight the privatisation of policing and criminal justice in the UK. He worked with MPs and pressure groups to campaign for regulation of private security companies, door security, and private investigators.

Professor South also worked at the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence throughout the 1980s, acting as a leading commentator on drugs issues and policy. He was one of the early champions of the ‘harm reduction’ approach and was a member of the founding editorial board of the International Journal of Drug Policy which helped shape worldwide drug policy reform.

His career has included an extensive track-record of publications, contributions to professional and community bodies, successful delivery of research projects and many years of service in University leadership, from Institute Director to Pro-Vice-Chancellor.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: “Nigel has been a wonderful colleague and truly talented academic, who throughout his career has been concerned to tackle real world problems and practical issues, to make the world a better place – sharing his experience with generations of students who have benefited from his generosity of spirit and insights. I am proud that the University of Essex runs though Nigel like a stick of rock and absolutely delighted that Nigel will continue his association with the University as an Emeritus Professor.”

Head of the Department of Sociology, Professor Pam Cox said: “Nigel has been an amazingly generous colleague and mentor to many and has made an incredible contribution to the department and the wider university. We’re really pleased that he’ll continue to be part of our community as an Emeritus Professor.”

Professor South began his sociological career studying the discipline as an undergraduate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex in 1973 and he has written of the transformational teaching he received then. What most impressed him was how the then new critical criminology connected with real world concerns and practical responses. The beliefs that have guided him over his extraordinary career are that crime and deviance are sociological matters and should be considered alongside housing, poverty, education, health, and the characteristics of local communities and wider society.

Professor South has served on numerous editorial boards and as a member of committees for professional bodies and conference organisation in the UK and USA. He has published over 28 books and journal special issues as author, co-author, editor or co-editor, and over 170 articles and book chapters.

He has held office across a range of departments including Pro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Law and Management, and Academic Partnerships, and prior to this served as Director of the Health and Social Services Institute, Head of the Department of Health and Human Sciences, and the Director of Health Partnerships.

Recent work has focused on the area of ‘green’ criminology and he was one of a small number of founding figures in this new field. This partly reflected an intellectual interest in the question of why criminology and public health fail to engage effectively given the dynamics of exclusion and poverty that drive many shared problems related to pollution, drugs, alcohol, housing, and social injustice. These connections have been even more relevant in the pandemic.

Professor South has provided generous and invaluable mentoring and support to others via community activities, PhD supervision and employment of early career researchers on funded projects. In management roles he brought the strengths of a sociological and criminological perspective to various projects and partnerships, including work with the NHS, developments at new university campuses in HE ‘cold spots’ in Southend and Ipswich, widening participation initiatives, and support for schools in areas of multiple deprivation, as well as coordinating a knowledge-exchange partnership with an NHS ‘social enterprise’ promoting community-based service provision. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Open Road, the drug and alcohol services charity.