On September 16, the University of Leicester’s Council of Governors agreed to shut down the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning. The chair of the Council explained to the Leicester Mercury (September 17) that the decision to disestablish the Vaughan Centre was “sound and appropriate” and necessary “to secure the future success of the University of Leicester.”
As staff, students, trade unions and community campaigners have made abundantly clear over the past four months, the future success of the University does not depend on closing Vaughan. In fact, the opposite is the case: even if the issue was weighed in purely monetary terms, as the Vaughan Centre generates a net profit for the University.
Scheming elites at the top of the University’s unaccountable hierarchy would have us all believe the opposite, that adult education at Vaughan is a drain on the University’s coffers. The simple fact is the University leadership wanted the centre closed, so they set up a fake consultation and then seemingly ignored all the mountains of evidence presented in support of keeping Vaughan open.
But why should we trust the good judgement of elites like, for example, Bridget Towle to determine the future of Leicester’s living heritage and commitment to lifelong learning?
Bridget is hardly likely to know the vital social and educative function served by the Vaughan Centre for normal working class people, as she was born into wealth. As her own biography notes, after completing a degree in Economics, Law and Politics she had a quick jaunt teaching the less fortunate in Africa, and then joined her families garment manufacturing business, Towles PLC, eventually serving as its joint Managing Director. Under Bridget’s co-leadership, in 1994 Towles PLC was acquired by Merchant Bankers (London City Equities) and not long after this, in 1997, Towles PLC then went into receivership.
Or we could take the current treasurer for the University of Leicester’s Council, David Moore, as an example. David’s former employment was as the Managing Director for Citibank, overseeing their rapacious capitalist activities in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and Asia. With Mr Moore there can be little doubt that 28 years of working for Citibank will have installed the correct instinctive creed in his mind of profit before human need (at any cost).
In an attempt to persuade the University of Leicester to reconsider their wanton vandalism of Leicester’s educational heritage, a hundred strong lobby was organised at lunchtime today to call upon the University’s Council to see sense. Many individuals spoke passionately in defence of the Vaughan Centre at the protest, but there can be no doubt that the fight to Save Vaughan is far from over. Certainly the decision to close Vaughan was neither “sound” or “appropriate”!
One of those speaking to the protest was local Labour MP Jon Ashworth (and current member of Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet), who committed to support the people of Leicester “today, tomorrow, and forever in fighting the closure of the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning.” Mr Ashworth added that in closing Vaughan, the University management “are turning their backs on the people who have been through the Vaughan Centre, turning their backs on the people who are currently studying at the Vaughan Centre, and in many ways turning their backs on the city.” He stated:
“This is about a cause in many respects that is much bigger than just the Vaughan Centre; this is about a cause which I am sure all of us believe in, because we believe in the public good of higher education. This is about investment in people, and this is about a belief that you think society should be organised for people, not simply for profit.”
Now that is something I can agree with!