A FORMER principal of Oxford’s Ruskin College and trade unionist has died aged 86.

John Hughes joined the staff of the further education college in 1958 and remained there for more than 30 years.

He was initially a tutor in economics, politics and industrial relations and a resident tutor at Ruskin Hall.

In 1966, he helped establish the Trade Union Research Unit, which produced dozens of research papers, trade union pay claims and political arguments for major trade unions including the National Union of Mineworkers, the Transport and General Workers’ Union, the National Union of Teachers and the National Union of Seamen.

Together with Roy Moore he wrote The Miners, A Special Case in 1974 which played a key role in the miners' strike of that year.

By this time he had been appointed vice-principal of Ruskin College and in 1979 — following the retirement of Bill Hughes — he became principal.

Mr Hughes established the tutorial system at Ruskin and ensured students had access to key Labour Movement minds of the day.

He worked closely with trade union leaders at Oxford’s car plants, helping to improve pay and conditions there, he worked with Labour ministers in the Wilson Government, and sat on the Prices Commission which was set up to attempt to control inflation.

Mr Hughes turned down a number of professorships in order to stay at Ruskin College and in 1989 he retired to be replaced by Stephen Yeo but continued his trade union work in other ways.

John Hughes was born on January 28, 1927 in South London.

He went to Gateford primary school and then Westminster City School before being evacuated to Kent during the Second World War.

His brother Ron, a Communist Party member, was an important influence on his political awareness, as was the role he played in the war, when he worked with the Navy to support airmen.

He was horrified by the carnage of the war and saw it as a Capitalist war above all. At 18 he joined the Communist Party.

In 1948, he met his wife Vi in London and they became a couple while working in Yugoslavia rebuilding the railway with the Young Communist League.

The couple married in 1949.

After the war Mr Hughes won a scholarship to study Greats at Lincoln College in Oxford, but soon swapped to Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

It was as a student that Mr Hughes first discovered Ruskin College.

After Oxford and a period as National Service Education officer he applied for an extra-mural job at Sheffield University with the Workers’ Educational Association.

He discovered the job was based in Scunthorpe but didn't mind and took it, working with groups of miners and steelworkers.

In 1956, he left the Communist Party and joined the Labour Party before joining the staff of Ruskin College two years later.

Mr Hughes diedin Headington on November 1 and is survived by his daughters Katherine, Stella, Nicola and Kirsty, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife predeceased him.

His funeral takes place today at 1.45pm in St Andrew’s church, Old Headington. The coffin will process from his Old Headington home and people are welcome to follow the procession.