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Issue 482, 20 May 2002

Bragg cites Leeds in Lords debate

Chancellor Melvyn Bragg used the University as a 'little local reference' during a recent Lords debate on education and skills. Declaring his interest as Leeds' Chancellor, the Labour peer said "We have decided – finally, it seems to me – that our future lies in our brains. I find it encouraging that the government are now addressing the engine-room of the intellect; that is, the universities."

Widening participation to attract students from poorer homes was achievable, as the Ogden scholarships piloted by the University had shown, he said. After the first two years, 23 of 26 scholars had university places – but such schemes only worked if properly funded.

He cited Leeds' excellence in teaching quality despite years of reduction in the teaching resource and increasing student numbers. This could only continue, he said, if funding was maintained in real terms. "Tight squeezes … can be strangulating."

Research quality at Leeds and many other universities has risen despite great obstacles, Lord Bragg continued. If RAE 2001 had been fully funded for 2003, the University would have won an additional £7.5 million in place of the £2.5 million it is now set to receive.

Praising the government's investment in infrastructure, he said: "If the research budget continues to be underfunded, there will not be the revenue support to utilise this infrastructure. Therefore, the only benefit will go to students of irony."

See the full text of the debate online – Lord Bragg's intervention begins in column 286.


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