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All things not so wise, wise and wonderful

5 September 2006

Summer musings from the Vice-Chancellor: the great A-level debate, the Robbins report and the Rolling Stones.

The summer is usually a quiet period for higher education, except for the predictable response to the A-level results. I have written about this before but have to repeat how unedifying it is to watch some of our politicians and education experts, as well some of the media, telling our young adults they are not worthy. Enough said.

I have been asked to give a talk about the history of UK higher education, which is a new one for me and required some considerable research. This has included reading the Robbins report of 1964, which recommended a significant national expansion in the number of students. My predecessor, Sir Philip Morris (Vice-Chancellor, 1946-66), was a member of the Robbins Committee. It makes fascinating reading and one part I would like to draw your attention to is what they thought the aims of higher education were:

  • Instruction in skills suitable to play a part in the general division of labour
  • To promote the general powers of the mind
  • The advancement of learning (ie research)
  • The transmission of a common culture and common standards of citizenship.

I don’t think we would disagree with any of these over 40 years later and it is interesting that they started with an economic aim – nothing is new under the sun.

I hope you all had an enjoyable break this summer. The highlight for us was the Rolling Stones concert at Twickenham. Barry Taylor, Director of Communications and Marketing, wanted me to use them to exemplify how successful you can be if you know your brand and stick to your mission. I just want to tell you that it was a simply outstanding concert by the best live rock band in the world.

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