Tory blogger Guido Fawkes probably doesn’t remember much about university. His spell at Humberside College of Higher Education (formerly Scumbag Polytechnic) was largely spent trying to build an alliance between the Tory students (in their hang Nelson Mandela days) and the BNP. All the ecstasy and LSD the then-Paul Delarie-Staines shoved down his throat as a rave organiser probably didn’t help, nor did his drinking.
But that doesn’t forgive his (and some of his more simple-minded commenters) decision to dub my alma mater, the fantastic University of Lancaster, a ‘third-rate university in a comment about its takeover of the think-tank the Work Foundation.
For the record, it’s in the top 10 UK universities in all four major higher education surveys (sixth, according to The Guardian). A minute on Google would’ve done the trick.
But, on a wider point, Staines (who knows a thing or two about bankruptcy himself) is right – if for all the wrong reasons.
The Work Foundation and its leader, Will Hutton, undoubtedly have the potential to make a contribution to Lancaster – but not from London. This country is unbalanced enough as it is. Universities like Lancaster are one of the few counterweights, bringing jobs, investment, education and innovation to the regions. But if Lancaster’s got a spare £27 million knocking about, it needs to stay in the North-West. With spending cuts shafting higher education (and especially students), putting money into an organisation with posh offices in the capital is not only a poor investment, but a betrayal of the mission of universities like Lancaster to build up the regions.
And yes, there’s an arguments that London is where the people at the Work Foundation need to do their business – but that’s the problem. Everyone thinks they need to be in London because everyone thinks they need to be in London. But three hours away on the train doesn’t exactly put you on the dark side of the moon. And seeing the places where 80 per cent of the British population live might give Hutton and co a whole new insight on the world of work,
By all means do it – but make sure that Hutton and the bulk of his staff bring their work north with them. We’ve got electricity and everything now, tha knows.