Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has invited dialogue on “northern futures” (http://northernfutures.dialogue-app.com). Anyone can take part, and here’s the exam question:
How do we build on the strengths in the North to create an economic core in the heart of the region that can compete with the biggest cities in the world?
Seen from a university point of view, we have a key role as anchor institutions in both cities and regions. And seen in international and competitive perspective, this must mean that universities across the North must do more in collaboration, based on the strength of their diversity. Simple geopolitics dictate this. In the near future, the world’s biggest cities will each have populations in excess of 20 million (Shanghai and Karachi already have populations of over 20 million people; Lagos, Istanbul, Sao Paulo and Mumbai are not far behind). The combined population of the North of England (from the River Trent to the Scottish border) is 14.5m, about the same as the population of the city of Istanbul. In the competitive future, cities the size of Greater Manchester (population about 3 million) will just not be big enough. But the North as a region will have the capacity to compete.
When you enter a competition, you aim to win. And when the competition is as big and fierce as the annual Times Higher Education Awards, you’ve won the first round when you are shortlisted as one of the five or so best in Britain. This year, we’ve been shortlisted for four THE awards; alongside just two other universities, the highest number of shortlisted nominations in the country.
First-year performance student Jamali Maddix has won the prestigious Student Comedy Award at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, beating three hundred contestants from across the country in what the judges lauded as a routine that refused to shy away from controversial subjects such as racism and terrorism.
This achievement – the second year in a row that one of our students has scooped this prize – capped a great showing by our performance department in the School of Arts and Media at Edinburgh.
For a while now we’ve been working in partnership with the Salford Forum for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum, and so I was pleased to be able to help when Alexis Murura Shama asked me to speak at the memorial ceremony for the tenth anniversary of the Gatumba Massacre.
Alexis, who is a graduate of the Salford Business School and a member of the Salford Forum, is Banyamulenge, a Congolese community from the high plateaus of South Kivu, above Lake Tanganyika. Ten years ago, displaced by years of violence that had culminated in the Rwanda genocide of 1994, a large group of Banyamulenge refugees were living in a UN-supervised camp at Gatumba, a small town in Burundi close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Salford’s A J Bell Stadium was sold out – capacity 12,000 – for the much anticipated match between Salford City and their owners, the Class of ’92 consortium of Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes. Full disclosure: I know little about football. So I had a steep learning curve in the stands with five coachloads of our staff, students and prospective students and our Student Union leadership. It’s still not clear to me what the guy who clung to the crossbar of the goal posts like a determined orangutan was trying to achieve, as he was prised off bit-by-bit by four beleaguered security guards. But there was a clear, finger-wagging message in the outcome. It doesn’t matter how famous you are; teamwork trumps celebrity.