Sir Ron Dearing's idea to "enthuse the poor" (THES, October 25) has its origins earlier than the Robbins report. In 1884 the Rev Samuel Barnett opened Toynbee Hall in the Commercial Road, Whitechapel. Here young Oxbridge graduates came to live, pursue their careers in the City or the law and use their spare time to work with their Whitechapel neighbours in organising clubs and camps, giving legal or medical advice and taking part in local government.
By 1914, many other "university settlements" had been established both in London and in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham and, of course, Manchester. Our 101-year-old settlement, though no longer residential and with 21st rather than 19th century aims, still stands in deprived East Manchester, a fortress of hope on the frontiers of despair.
Its lively and dedicated staff would, I am sure, welcome any (properly funded) initiative which Sir Ron might like to propose. They may already have initiated it.
Michael E. Rose Department of history University of Manchester.