Ronald Dearing was born in Kingston upon Hull in 1930. Joining the civil service aged 16 he had become deputy head of the coal division of the Ministry of Power by 1967. In 1980 he became Chairman of the Post Office, followed by the Accounting Standards Review Committee, the Financial Reporting Council and the Northern Development Company. Dearing chaired Camelot in 1993 and was instrumental in the organisation of the National Lottery.
Dearing's involvement in Higher Education began with his chairmanship of the Council for National Academic Awards, followed by the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council, the Universities Funding Council and finally the merged Higher Education Funding Council for England. In 1993 he was appointed to chair the new School Curriculum and Assessment Authority which proposed modifications to the National Curriculum and later produced reports suggesting reforms of GCSE and A-level qualifications. His most instrumental report was the 1997 National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education which proposed greatly expanding the number of university places and charging tuition fees.
He served as Chancellor of the University of Nottingham from 1993-2001. During this time he oversaw a major expansion of the University's student numbers, the opening of the Jubilee Campus and the establishment of The University of Nottingham in Malaysia (UNMC). Made a life peer in 1998, Lord Dearing also presided over events to mark the University's Golden Jubilee year.
The Lord Dearing Awards for Teaching and Learning and the Dearing building on the University of Nottingham's Jubilee Campus were named after him.