Building a Radical University
A History of the University of East London
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This history of radical innovation at the University of East London is an inspirational account of what can be achieved in a climate of educational experiment, freedom and cooperation.
As leaders of a ‘people’s university’, part of the vast post-1960s expansion in British higher education, UEL’s first generation of educationalists was committed to innovation and to creating a new democratic identity for their institution. They were also determined to extend access to higher education to those previously excluded, and to offer East Londoners, at a time of social deprivation and political turbulence, the vocational education to meet their aspirations. In this book, leading figures in UEL’s history describe its radical accomplishments across a broad range of subject areas including Architecture, Cultural Studies, Fashion Textiles, Independent Studies, Law, and Refugee Studies.
These chapters, including three by former students, evoke the excitement of an environment in which there was so much opportunity to invent, to do things differently. The book is an excellent and detailed resource for all those with an interest in the history and future of higher education in the UK, and particularly the legacy of polytechnics and new universities. At a time of intense marketisation in the UK’s higher education sector, this book insists on the possibility of democratic educational innovation and renewal.
Introduction: UEL – a radical university? Gavin Poynter and Michael Rustin
1 Anthropology at UEL, 1990-2019, Lionel Sims
2 The Architecture School, Christine Hawley
3 Rethinking art and design in the 1970s, David Page
4 The Centre for Institutional Studies, Jon Griffith, Michael Locke, John Pratt and Alice Sampson
5 The Centre for Narrative Research, Molly Andrews and Corinne Squire, with Cigdem Esin and Aura Lounasmaa
6 Creating cultural studies, Alan O’Shea
7 East London research, Penny Bernstock and Gavin Poynter
8 A new approach to economics, Frank Skuse and Peter Howells
9 Fashion and textile futures, Sara Bowman
10 Feminism in the academy: women’s studies, Maggie Humm
11 An outpost of history: A conversation, Sally Alexander, Catherine Hall and Bill Schwarz
12 Independent Study, Derek Robbins
13 Innovation studies and its roots, Alvaro de Miranda and Tony Hargreaves
14 A radical law school? John Strawson
15 Physiotherapy: a story of change, Sarah Beeston
16 Sixty years of innovating in applied psychology, Mark R. McDermott, Dave Harper, John Radford, David Rose and Aneta Tunariu
17 The emergence of psychosocial studies, Barry Richards and Joanne Brown
18 Refugee studies – the East London experience, Philip Marfleet
19 Sociology @ East London, Tim Butler and Barbara J. Harrison
20 The Tavistock-UEL partnership, Michael Rustin
Experiences of former students
21 Bloody snobs, Tanya Frank
22 The air vibrated: anxiety, excitement and intellectual endeavour, Amal Treacher Kabesh
23 Object lesson, Francesca Hughes interviewed by Christine Hawley
This is a book to feast on, with an amazing array of topics and a host of world-renowned authors. Its fascinating and informative history of the radical university is a powerful challenge to the new framing of university education, reinvigorating debates on the purpose of HE, and its relationship to democracy both within and beyond the university.
- Diane Reay, Professor of Education, Cambridge University
This innovative university has always been of great importance to the communities of East London – giving local people a great education, recording our history and assessing our characteristics, and attracting gifted people to live and stay in our part of London. The book contains rich descriptions of the wide range of its creative and pioneering work. I warmly welcome its publication.
- Rt Hon Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham
This is a valuable and rare account of an innovative phase of higher education in UK. Its editors have brought to our attention the growth of technical colleges into polytechnics and then into ‘new’ universities, a social revolution spanning a half century from the seventies onward till today in what was a class-ridden old-fashioned universities sector. It is a story not previously told.
I had the good fortune of witnessing at first hand the thrilling adventure that the growth and development of the Economics faculty at the then Polytechnic of East London (later Polytechnic of North East London and then University of East London ) as an external examiner and as friend of the young and radical members of staff who tried to create a distinct home for radical political Economy and succeeded.
- Meghnad (Lord) Desai, Emeritus Professor of Economics, London School of Economics
Not all the polytechnics fulfilled the promise to become ‘people’s universities’. Some didn’t try. But the North East London Polytechnic, now the University of East London, came closest. NELP - the acronym itself acquired an intense resonance – embodied the radical potential of opening up higher education. Its achievements are memorialised in this book, not – I hope – as sentimental history but as a platform for future action.
Sir Peter Scott, Professor of Higher Education Studies, UCL Institute of Education