In the news: Pam Tatlow

April 23, 2004

This week, Pam Tatlow became chief executive - and the first employee - of Campaigning for Mainstream Universities, the former Coalition of Modern Universities.

The CMU member institutions are mainly universities formed from polytechnics in 1992 that believe their aim of pursuing access and diversity is at least as worthy of support as the more research-oriented goals of the Russell Group - which is also setting up an office.

Ms Tatlow says her main aim is to "present the vision" of the mainstream universities to government, funders, industry and to outside bodies such as the National Health Service and employers of CMU graduates.

Ms Tatlow, a former trade union official with train drivers' union Aslef, teachers' union NASUWT and the Society of Radiographers, is experienced at parliamentary liaison. She says the higher education bill has "sharpened the focus" of CMU members on topics such as widening participation. The 31 universities that the CMU represents do not agree completely over the bill, but they share the concern that it leaves a funding gap that will have to be addressed by the government.

Ms Tatlow hopes the existing devolved governments and the planned English regional assemblies will recruit civil servants from among local graduates rather than students from the traditional backgrounds of Oxbridge and London universities.

Also on the agenda is the future of the Office for Fair Access. Ms Tatlow points to international experience suggesting that variable fee regimes tend to divert students from poor backgrounds from the pricier courses.

"There is no reason to repeat the experiment here," she says.

"We need to stick to the idea that people should not find major barriers put in their way by money, class, ethnicity or other factors - and that would include the flexibility that universities themselves have to provide."

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