Professor Peter Slee follows his predecessor, Professor Susan Price, as ex officio Honorary Member of the Club. He was introduced to members by Cliff Beddows, a former staff member at Leeds Metropolitan University., as it was previously named. He paid particulate tribute to Professor Slee’s accomplishments at Huddersfield University, which included
- the creation of The 3M Buckley Innovation Centre to foster business partnerships
- assisting Huddersfield University to become in 2012, the first university where 100% of the academic staff had achieved Fellowship of The Higher Education Academy, a recognition of a high level of teaching ability; something not always found in some of our finest universities.
- Huddersfield being named ‘University of The Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards.
In his talk to the Club, Professor Slee compared the 35 universities of 1965, with the 108 now in England, with their vastly increased student population. Leeds Beckett is in the top 5% of universities world-wide. The university gives high priority to working closely with employers. At 97%, graduate employment, (due to rise to 99% this year), it is the third most successful in the country.
Peter stressed that the purpose of a university is essentially moral: never to chase what he called “the fast buck” but to prepare young adults to play a rewarding and useful role in a rapidly changing society. The speed of technological change is such that students now will need the confidence and adaptability to respond to a constantly versatile job-market.
Professor Slee also had some strong views on the likely impact of Brexit on British universities. At present we put £5 million into EEC Research projects and take £8 million out. Overseas students and staff make up 10% of Leeds Beckett University and these are anxious times for them.
Some exciting new developments are in the pipeline: a new Creative Arts building next to The Rose Bowl, an upgrading of the Sports facilities, the formation of a local Residents Association and the development of the Beckett Park estate.
Our President-elect, John Hafseth, and Keith Crowther, Chair of the Membership committee, both commented on Professor Slee’s warm enthusiasm for building strong links between the University and the Club. We shall be looking at ways in which we can contribute jointly to the local community and make productive links with the staff and student bodies.