In my decade as a lecturer and director of studies at the University of Leicester (1997-2007), the vice-chancellor – Sir Robert Burgess – regularly trumpeted the achievements of Vaughan College, the focus of the university’s adult education provision. He understood that part of the mission of a world-class institution includes the education of local residents.
Burgess moved the higher education work of Vaughan College to the university’s main campus in 2013, renaming it “Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning” (VCLL). At this time, he made a promise to the people of Leicester: “Moving adult education provision to our main campus is an important part in ensuring the viability and continuing success of the Vaughan tradition…Vaughan really does matter to me, but it is about more than a building, and we are bringing it into the heart of the university.”
Just three years later, the new vice-chancellor, Paul Boyle, is proposing to shut down this landmark of local learning. He may claim that the university’s wider financial problems force this closure, but he is losing face and public goodwill in the process.
Boyle should use his considerable management skills in making the tough strategic choice of withdrawing the threat of closure. The goodwill of maintaining and strengthening a pillar of Leicester’s local community – Vaughan College was founded in 1862, making it well over 50 years older than the University of Leicester – is beyond price.
Let us hope, before it is too late, that the University of Leicester may retain a modicum of common sense, if not decency, in maintaining the Vaughan Centre, its provision and its staff.
Research fellow and teaching fellow
University of Bristol