John is a scholar, an international administrator, and a social entrepreneur. He is a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, where he taught History and Politics for twenty years. During that time he conceived and then led the development of the £20M project to build and launch the Rothermere Institute for American Studies. He also conceived and launched the Rex Nettleford Prize in Cultural Studies, funded by the Rhodes Trust, to honour one of the great intellectual and cultural leaders of the Caribbean and the Global South. He currently works with governments, civil society and the corporate sector in Africa and Asia on new approaches to tertiary education, cultural studies, development and international partnerships.
Previously John was CEO of the Rhodes Trust and Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities. He conceived both the concept and the launch of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, a designated legacy charity of former President Nelson Mandela. With colleagues from Ghana and South Africa, he also helped establish Renewing the African University, the US$5 billion programme designed to reinvigorate tertiary education across the Continent. The programme was endorsed by the Commission for Africa and the African Union and was presented to the G8 by former Presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo as a top priority for Africa. John was honoured by the British Government for his services to South Africa/UK relations and in Nigeria by President Obasanjo, as Chancellor of the University of Benin, for his services to tertiary education and development in Africa.
John has also been actively involved in education and cultural activities in various Muslim majority countries and in international programmes focused on cultural exchange and dialogue through his membership of the World Economic Forum's Council of 100 Leaders and through the World Islamic Forum.