Monday, 10 October 2011

The University of Leeds and its City - Part 3

Town and Gown, Trade and Industry

This is what the Pro-Chancellor Hubert Stanley Houldsworth said about the university's relationship with its city in The University of Leeds Review: Jubilee Edition (1954):
There must [...] be a strong extra-mural department to take the torch of learning into towns and hamlets around the University; and within the University precincts there must be opportunity for both members and non-members of the University to join together in the cultural pleasures, of music, poetry, and literature, in the appreciation of painting and other works of art, in lectures on general matters, or even in some of the more specialised lectures which, of necessity, must be an attraction to a smaller section. The University must be a focus of learning and cultural life to the whole community. (1954: 47)

We can see Houldsworth's vision for an outreach programme that forges a cultural and educational relationship with the city that bore it. However, this relationship was not just one-sided: the Redbrick universities were meant to be an expression of civic pride and a symbol of national identity to the local citizens. In his article on 'Town and Gown', Houldsworth provides a list of chancellors that preceded him and their achievements that impacted the region. He concludes his text with the motto: "'Town and Gown' in unison is our endeavour. At Leeds, 'Town' helps 'Gown', and 'Gown' helps 'Town'. The contributions of each to the other must continue to grow, to the advantage of each, and, we trust, to the advantage of the world." (1954: 52)

A. N. Shimmin's chapter on Town and Gown (The University of Leeds: The First Half Century) is replete with gifts from notable local businessmen - for example, Edward Baines and Frank Parkinson - whose legacy we are reminded of in the form of existing university buildings that were built in their honour or indeed with their money, as was the case with the Parkinson Building.

Michael Sanderson provides much detail on the University of Leeds and local business in his book The University and British Industry 1850-1970. He discusses the success of the university's early days of specialising in areas of study which enabled them to create alliances with industry, such as industrial chemistry; coal, gas and fuel, tinctorial chemistry for textiles, and textiles and material. (1972: 85-86) Most of Shimmin's discussion on industry appears under his chapter 'The Faculty of Technology'. Broken down into sections on agriculture, mining, textile industries, colour chemistry and dyeing, engineering and leather (which all make up individual departments within the faculty), it becomes apparent how significant for the university this faculty was at the time of his text. These departments still existed in 1954, however today the faculty no longer remains, with those departments that still do exist being made parts of other faculties.

David Jones opens his chapter 'Founders and Benefactors' with the remark: "The civic universities were built upon charity." (1984: 164) While I think this is an overly simplistic statement, it is clear that without endowments from outside the institution that these universities would have not been able to develop and grow. Indeed, were it not for the Clothworkers' generous endowment when Leeds was working towards its university charter, it would not have been granted in 1904. Bruce Truscot's remark that the university's responsibility to industry should be secondary to its pedagogic one does not reflect the blurred boundaries between these two areas, as is clear when it comes to the subjects taught historically at the university of Leeds. If the Redbrick university wished to provide a good education to the local bourgeois, enabling them to become successful businessmen, then educating the sons of local middle-class merchants is both an obligation to local industry and also an educational undertaking. The historical relationship the university has had with trade and industry appears in the legacy of the subjects taught. While in modernity this relationship grew out of a direct response to an economic need which meant the university reacted to the demands of a certain type of knowledge requirement, in postmodernity the university has acquired the mantle of a business-oriented philosophy in its own right, meaning that attempting to demarcate industry and institution as separate entities is a far more complex move. In order to compete in a globalised market the contemporary university is expected to think and operate as if it were a business. This means that it has to be run like one and therefore take up the procedures and practices of commerce.

Houldsworth, Hubert, Stanley. 'Town and Gown', The University of Leeds Review: Jubilee Edition (1954), 44-52.
Jones, David R. 1984. The Origins of Civic Universities: Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International).
Sanderson, Michael. 1972. The University and British Industry 1850-1970 (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul).
Shimmin, A.N. 1954. The University of Leeds: The First Half Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

The University of Leeds and its City - Part 1
The University of Leeds and its City - Part 2

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