IRGLUS’s guiding light: Remembering Professor Patrick McAuslan MBE, 1937 – 2014


Edesio Fernandes & Stephen Berrisford

Professor Patrick McAuslan passed away two years ago, on 11 January 2014, after a short illness and following an inspiring life committed to the promotion of land reform, social justice, legal education and institutional modernisation in developing and urbanising countries.

Through his inseparable academic and policy-making work, Patrick left a unique legacy.  He was a member of IRGLUS since the group was created, and he participated in some of our meetings in various countries.  Above all, the overall conceptual framework he conceived over a 50-year career has been the inner core of IRGLUS’s agenda, and he personally provided academic guidance to three generations of IRGLUS’s members.

Patrick was widely recognised as a pioneer and world expert in the fields of law and development; land law; law reform; sustainable development; the alleviation of poverty; and urban planning law, initially within a postcolonial African and Asian context and gradually in other parts of the world. He was the founding father in the English-speaking world of a growing and increasingly influential field of Public Law, namely, Urban Law.

Patrick McAuslan studied at Oxford University, taught at Warwick and LSE, was Professor of Urban Management at the DPU (1992-99) and at Birkbeck (1993-2013), where he was instrumental in the establishment of the School of Law in 1993. He was a member of the group that established the first African Law School in Dar es Salaam, in 1961, where he taught for five years.

He left a solid body of groundbreaking work: Law, land and planningThe ideologies of planning lawLand policy for the urban poorUrban land and shelter for the poorBringing the law back in: Essays on Land, Law and Development; and Land Law Reform in East Africa: Traditional or Transformative?; as well as countless articles and policy reports.

For over 50 years, he also had an active policy-making career working in different capacities for several international organisations and national governments. Among other positions, he was Land Management Co-ordinator at UN-Habitat’s Urban Management Programme in Nairobi (1990-93), and he regularly acted as an advisor for the UN, the World Bank, the European Union and DfID, among others.

He visited over 35 countries to carry out advisory missions, often in precarious and even dangerous conditions. His reports and proposals for laws and policies effectively contributed to legal and institutional reform in many of those, and he was made an MBE by the British Government in recognition of his contribution.

Patrick McAuslan became an intellectual mentor and personal role model to whole generations of lawyers, legal scholars, urban planners and policy-makers internationally.

He is survived by his wife Dorrette, daughter Fiona and a grandson.  He is greatly missed.

Urban Law LabComment