I began writing this series of blogs in August 2009, when I started my term as Vice-Chancellor. This is what I wrote then:
‘There are indications that the current ceiling on student fees will either be raised or abolished. There is to be a review of the current policy later this year and, given the condition of the public finances, it seems likely that action will be taken after next year’s election, whichever party wins. As we finalise our offers to new students for the coming academic year, it’s a good time to look again at the ways in which a university education can be, and should be, financed.
Students’ Unions are part of the mix that gives each university its distinctiveness. They are independent organisations, with their own trustees and administrations and shops and services that benefit students and complement the grants they receive from their partner university administrations. Over the past two years, we’ve been working closely with the University of Salford Students’ Union (USSU) to expand their offer to all our students. One outcome of this has been the complete refurbishment of the USSU’s social facilities in University House, now re-launched as Atmosphere: good coffee, good meals and a welcome to all staff to socialise with our students.
The Working Class Movement Library is a gem. Its collection of books, pamphlets, posters, newspapers, photographs and memorabilia is founded in the personal collection of activists Ruth and Edmund Frow and spans pretty much the entire intellectual and political history of Britain’s labour movement. Along with the Salford Museum and Art Gallery, this library complements the role of our university as a public institution. And, like many other public institutions, the WCML is severely pressed by cut-backs in public funding.
It shouldn’t be necessary to have to make the case for diversity. There shouldn’t be the need for an Equality Challenge Unit, or for a kite mark for gender equity. There shouldn’t be an attainment gap for BME students. A postcode should not affect the probability of your attending university or shape the kind of university that will let you in. In an equitable society, a person realises their capabilities though their own choices – by the objectives they set themselves and the efforts they make.
Young people who have been in the care of local authorities are the worst represented group of learners in British universities, with less than seven per cent of care leavers in Higher Education at the age of 19. And, once at university, this small group of students face pressures that are largely unknown, and often unimagined, by their peers. We have a strong record here, recruiting a significantly higher proportion of care leavers to our University. And we are fortunate that the City of Salford is known as one of the best local authorities in the country for its support of children in care. Nonetheless, there is much still to do if we are to provide these potential students with all the support that they need, and to which they are entitled.