Tributes have been paid to a leading academic who helped to create the University of Brighton.

Sir David Watson, one of the UK’s leading higher education academics, who was instrumental in gaining university status for Brighton Polytechnic in 1992, has died aged 65.

Professor Julian Crampton, the current university vice-chancellor, said the university’s board of governors have backed a proposal to name a new academic building and library in his memory.

Sir David, who was battling cancer, held the post of vice-chancellor between 1990 and 2005, including during the establishment’s progression towards university status in 1992.

He left the university to become professor of higher education at the Institute of Education in London before joining the University of Oxford in 2010 as principal of Green Templeton College and professor of higher education.

A highly-decorated academic, Sir David was educated at Cheshunt Grammar School, Eton College and Clare College, Cambridge, where he received first class honours in history before attending the University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded a PhD in history.

He was a member of the Dearing review of higher education in the 1990s and was knighted in 1998 for his services to the sector, having gained industry-wide respect as a prolific and influential higher education commentator.

He was awarded the Times Higher Education Lord Dearing Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Sir David, who was a keen musician and a talented pianist, is survived by his wife Betty Pinto Skolnick and his two children.

Professor Crampton said he announced the news of Sir David’s passing with “considerable sadness”.

He said: “Sir David was a friend and colleague to many whilst he was at Brighton, where he played a major role in shaping the university as it gained university status in 1992.”

Prof Crampton said that the university’s soon-to-be-built library and academic buildings located in Circus Street, Brighton, will be named after Sir David.

He said: “This will be in recognition of Sir David’s contribution to the success of the University of Brighton, the higher education sector more generally, and the cultural life of the city of Brighton and Hove.”