Saturday, 12 December 2015

Today's answer to the Old Boys' Network

I was surprised and honoured to be invited to be one of the guest speakers at a get-together of Warwick University graduates (and indeed students) in Warsaw. The event celebrated the university's 50th birthday. When I started the place was but 11 years old - part of the massive expansion of higher education that the Labour government had invested in from the mid '60s onward.

With British higher education being so much better than what Polish universities offer*, many young Poles head off to the UK to do their degree courses. And Warwick - a hotbed of radical socialism when I was there - has matured into an establishment that ranks in the top ten of all UK universities and in the top 100 of all global universities. I'm rather proud of that, even though in my day, student life was about punk rock and occupying Senate House. Today's students - not funded by generous student grants, and having to find £9,000 a year for tuition fees that in my day were paid by the State - take their studies more seriously I wager - especially if they're from countries like Poland.

Below: group photo from the event. Standing centre (stripy tie) is Her Majesty's Ambassador to Poland, Robin Barnett - who went to Birmingham University down the road from Warwick.

And how things looked 36 years ago - this is me holding forth at the Students Union hustings in 1979 (rather grainy photo courtesy of Nick Morris).

The event, held at Warsaw's Pure Sky Club overlooking Złote Tarasy was excellently organised and really enjoyable - I had some extremely interesting conversations with fellow Warwick graduates, and I will definitely be up for more networking with this group.

Britain's global 'soft power' is made up of things like this. Great universities, recognised the world over, attracting the brightest students from many countries. Back home, the lessons learned in the UK - not just academic studies, but best practice across different aspects of life, can all be put to good use building a better future for all.

* Most global university rankings have between two and five Polish establishments in the top 500 - the best no higher than 300th. The UK has four in the top ten.

This time last year:
Pluses and minuses of PKP InterCity

This time two years ago:
When transportation breaks down

This time seven years ago:
Full moon closest to Earth

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