Disputed words 2

September 10, 2004

Your report on the pulping of an official history by London Metropolitan University came as no surprise ("Book pulped at LondonMet", August ). The university appears to make a habit of banning books.

I spent more than a year producing the history of the University of North London (now London Met after its merger with London Guildhall University). The manuscript of more than 90,000 words should have been published in 1996 to commemorate UNL's centenary. It never saw the light of day.

Vice-chancellor Brian Roper opposed the inclusion of chapters dealing with Patrick Harrington, a student who turned out to be treasurer of the National Front. His exposure in 1982 provoked violent demonstrations that brought the then polytechnic to a standstill. Keith Joseph, Education Secretary at the time, was poised to order its closure.

I asked three distinguished academics to submit their own accounts of "the Harrington affair", but their efforts were wasted. I explained to Mr Roper that to omit this important period of the university's history was like asking me to write a history of Germany without mentioning the Nazi period.

But that was not his only objection. I had obtained chapters from each past director of the institution ever since it gained polytechnic status. Mr Roper, whom I had asked for a chapter to deal with the future of the establishment (it never materialised), did "not care much" for the written contributions of his predecessors. And so the book I and others had worked so painstakingly to produce was left to gather dust on an office shelf.

The unpublished manuscript has been described by some eminent academics as a "valuable contribution to the history of the polytechnic movement". It is a pity that London Metropolitan University seems intent on brushing its history under a rather ragged carpet while continuing to uphold the principle of "academic freedom".

John Izbicki

Director of public affairs, University of North London, 1992-96

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