Don Thornhill was born in Cork, and on completion of his early schooling, he studied at UCD and graduated with a BSc in Chemistry and Maths. He later worked on his PhD at the college. He worked in many government departments during his career, before being appointed Secretary General in the Department of Education. He directed the White Paper, the output from which was the Universities Bill, and he discusses the reaction to it. This was followed by the Education Act. In 1998 he moved to the HEA as Executive Chairman, where he worked closely with John Hayden. He discusses the funding which became available for research and how it was distributed, and he provides his views on university status for DIT, and his work in this area. Other challenges during his tenure are discussed, such as the uncomfortable relations between the DIT and HEA leadership following the formation of DIT.