From the Guardian:

The classical scholar John Barron, who has died aged 74, distinguished himself in the field of early Greek history and literature, and went on to become an important figure in the development of higher education in Britain. In 1987, as a member of the (then) university grants committee, he produced the Barron report, which proposed the amalgamation of university classics departments into fewer, but stronger, units. Before that, he was instrumental in setting up the University of London Institute for Advanced Study (now the School of Advanced Study) to pull together their research institutes. In 1991 he became master of St Peter's College, Oxford, which he led with panache.

Although born in Morley, west Yorkshire, where his father was head of mathematics at the local grammar school, Barron came from a family rooted in Cornwall. Childhood holidays were spent by the seaside at St Just-in-Penwith. He was educated at Clifton college, Bristol, a school of which he later became president. In 1953 he went as an exhibitioner to Balliol College, Oxford, where he read classics. He was lastingly influenced by three of his tutors: Kenneth Dover, Gordon Williams and Russell Meiggs, all Hellenists of exceptional range and flair.

In 1961, he went on to write a DPhil thesis about the Aegean island of Samos in the 6th century BC, a time when the island, just off the coast of Turkey, was at the forefront of intellectual developments in the region. Pythagoras - as well as a host of other writers and thinkers - was born on Samos during this period. The local ruler Polycrates completed an amazing feat of engineering by building a 3,399ft (1,036m) tunnel to carry water from one side of the island to the other through Mount Kastro.

In 1966 Barron published The Silver Coins of Samos, a substantial work showing his mastery of various types of evidence - not just the coins themselves, but also fragments of papyrus, inscriptions on stones and references by later writers - and of their complicated relations. He could thus recreate the history of ancient Samos and its timeline. The book has retained its interest well beyond numismatics specialists. A perceptive art historian, Barron was also the author of Greek Sculpture (1965, revised 1981).

He showed no less flair in dealing with Greek literature, especially the early lyric poets such as Ibycus. Several articles that he wrote on the subject still have value today, and he collaborated with Patricia Easterling on authoritative chapters in the Cambridge History of Classical Literature (1985). He was, in short, a strong Hellenophile and was never happier than when leading groups of travellers and students round Greece and the Aegean islands, often as a lecturer for Swan Hellenic cruises.

Barron's academic career began in 1959, when he joined Bedford College London, as an assistant lecturer in Latin. In 1964 he moved to University College London as a lecturer in archaeology, becoming reader in 1967. For 20 years from 1971, he was professor of Greek at King's College London, having been elected to the chair at the age of only 37. He was also director of the Institute of Classical Studies of London University (1984-91), an important position at a time when the institute was establishing itself as a significant meeting point for classicists from all over the world. A tall and graceful figure, he made an eloquent public orator for the university.

Barron went on to prove a dynamic and successful master of St Peter's College, Oxford, a young and not very rich institution by Oxford standards. He raised the proportion of women undergraduates from below 30% to around 50%, and moved the college up from near the bottom of the Norrington table (which ranks colleges according to degree pass rates) to the middle. During his time, the college acquired part of the Oxford Castle site, an important and highly visible position in the city, and developed three new halls of residence. After he had served two five-year terms as master, St Peter's paid him the unusual compliment of extending his tenure by two more years.

From 1997 to 2000, Barron was an active chairman of the Oxford colleges' admissions committee, urging the need for the university to attract a wider range of applicants. After his retirement in 2003, he chaired a number of educational institutions, such as the Cassel Trust and the Lambeth Palace library committee.

Barron valued education for all as a preparation for a fulfilling life, not just as a narrow conduit for academic research. He believed in education, not just training - the importance of learning how to apply rational approaches to all of kinds of problems and issues in life. He valued classics as a general training of the mind, and saw the power of the transferable skills it bestowed.

In 1962 he married Caroline Hogarth, granddaughter of the archaeologist DG Hogarth. A leading historian of medieval London, she became professor of medieval history at Royal Holloway College in 2002. They were exceptionally well matched, and their hospitality was famous. They had two daughters, Catherine and Helen. All three survive him.

ยท John Penrose Barron, classical scholar and educational administrator, born April 27 1934; died August 16 2008