In Memoriam: Paul Benneworth

May 20, 2020

A message from Thomas Farnell, Institute for the Development of Education, on behalf of the TEFCE team

It is with immense sadness that we announce that our colleague and friend Paul Benneworth died unexpectedly on Tuesday 12 May 2020 at the age of 46.

Paul worked as a senior researcher at the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies at the University of Twente from 2009 and had recently taken up a professorship in Innovation and Regional Development at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.

Paul was one of the leading experts worldwide on community engagement in higher education. His role in the TEFCE project was central. In 2017, the development of the project proposal was carried out in cooperation with Paul, who immediately agreed to take the role of lead experton the project. Once the project began, Paul memorably said: ‘let’s have fun with this project’. And we did. Far from being ‘just another project’, our team quickly became a community of enthusiasts determined to make a difference in the field of university-community engagement in Europe. Paul’s intellectual leadership, commitment and humour played such an important part of our joint work. He was proud of the ‘TEFCE Toolbox’ we developed and was looking forward to see how our project could influence policy and practice and how we could further cooperate after the end of the project.

Paul became a friend to many of us during the project and we are deeply shocked and saddened by his death. Our thoughts are with his wife, children, family and friends.

It will be very hard for us to continue our work without Paul and we will all miss him dearly. But we are determined to complete the work that we started with him. Indeed, we will consider it as an important legacy of Paul’s work that we continue advocating for the principles and ideals that he argued for so eloquently and passionately during our meetings and in his entire academic work.

Additional messages from TEFCE team members

Marco Seeber, University of Agder

Paul inspired through example. In our project, he graciously managed to balance intense, free debate on deep principles, with the pragmatism needed to achieve a true result. In your company, we enjoyed bothhard work and spare time so much. We will miss you Paul.

Bojana Ćulum Ilić, University of Rijeka

While writing my PhD 10y ago, I think I had read every single word that Paul had published on the role of universities in local/regional development. As a young scholar I considered him as my academic ‘rock star’ :) So, just imagine the thrill when I realised I was given the opportunity to work with THE Paul in the TEFCE project. We were both engaged as experts, but I knew who the real expert was :) Until TEFCE,Paul was in the papers I was reading…TEFCE brought him side by side…meetings,workshops, travelings, discussions, presentations, conversations, messages,mails, tweets, dinners, unavoidable beers and laughter :) We just ‘clicked’ :) Working with him was such an amazing learning journey, and there are many words to describe that journey…leadership, enthusiasm, passion, support, positive energy, commitment, excellence, constructive criticism, and I could go on and on…I found him assiduous and very, very inspiring…and I will miss him dearly.

Each time I take the brown Leffe, I will remember his words: mmmm, love your choice :) Love having you in my life Paul…I will truly miss you…*

Emma O’Brien, Technological University Dublin

Having knowledge of Paul’s extensive contribution to the field of HEI Community Engagement it was wonderful to finally meet with him in person at the first TEFCE meeting in Dresden (2018). During that meeting and many others he shared his deep knowledge in a realistic and pragmatic way with much humour and boundless energy.

Disseminating and sharing the TEFCE project outputs will be one small way that we can honour Paul’s substantial academic contribution to the field of community engagement.

Paul and I shared stories of both of our young families and travels and my thoughts are now with Paul’s wife, children and family at this horribly sad time.

Ines Schmidt, Technische Universität Dresden

Paul’s expertise and his sensitive being will be missed. I am very thankful for the time I could spent with him.



We have collected photographs of our work with Paul and have uploaded them here

Photo credit (portrait): Don Westerheijden (2014)

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