It was with great honour that I accepted an invitation to visit the Houses of Parliament on behalf of the university to celebrate 25 years of the modern university with MillionPlus. Now I’m sure that first sentence probably raised more questions than it answered, don’t worry you weren’t the only one. When I was asked, I had to find out what a modern university was and who MillionPlus was. Luckily for you I’ve already done that research and summarised it below.
Modern University – An institution/University formed and recognised after the further and higher education was passed in 1992. This at the time of passing allowed 35 polytechnic colleges to be fully recognised as Universities. Staffordshire University is just that, a modern university!
MillionPlus – MillionPlus is the Association for Modern Universities in the UK, and the voice of 21st century higher education. They commission and publish evidence and research to inform higher education policy and support good decision making. (Taken from their “who are we” section of their website.)
Now you are quickly caught up, let me tell you about the adventure. With the event notuntil 6pm and my choice to get an early morning train to the capital, I had many hours to kill, so I did some sight seeing and tourist attraction stuff. On the agenda was Madame Tussuards, Shreks Adventure and the London Eye with a side of Sea Life. I managed to pack quite a lot into my day, spending time with some of the worlds most famous stars, to viewing some of the worlds most exotic fish. London really does have it all to offer and with a return train journey from Stoke station only £20 I will certainly be back down soon to have more magical fun with the characters at Shreks adventure!
Once 5:30pm arrived it was time to head over to the Houses of Parliament to begin the celebration event, the security is very tight so I had to go through strict checks at portcullis house, this is where I’m told all visitors report to. Once everyone was through, we made our way as a group to Speakers house within the Houses of Commons. It was such a fascinating walk as I got views of Parliament civilians don’t usually get and once in Speakers house the amazement didn’t stop with luscious red carpets and golden décor. I was greeted with a name badge and goodie bag, which was filled with regular goodies and topped off with Jelly beans, I was so happy! This was followed by very polite servers with wine and canapés making for a very posh affair.
Before the official event schedule began and while everyone was arriving, I had time to socialise and explore the various rooms within Speakers house, one of which holds the famous state bed which I have to say is very odd but a sight to behold. This was topped by the views of the Thames, Parliament Bridge and the London Eye which the windows of Speakers house offered.
With the exploring complete, I took the chance to get to know the crowd which consisted of vice chancellors, MP’s, students and members of MillionPlus. In particular, I had quite an interesting conversation with the current MP of stone, Bill Cash, who was there supporting the event. I took the opportunity to ask his opinion on how brexit could affect the future of students and whether Britain will benefit from leaving the EU (it’s not everyday you get the chance to grill an MP), his views and opinions were certainly strong and ones I could challenge but made for a great conversation. I also chatted with representatives from Sunderland University about football and how a positive relationship with your local team can help the sport at your uni, we also discussed the upcoming bid of city-of-culture which Sunderland is also bidding for (nothing like a bit of healthy competition obviously).
With the event starting we first heard from the guest speaker, Mr Speaker John Bercow, who with some witty banter and tongue in cheek comments got the crowd laughing. He also took a serious yet enlightening manner to address his support and understanding of the importance of modern universities within the higher education sector for students both current and future.
We also heard from the chair of MillionPlus, Professor Dave Phoenix OBE, who shared his faith in the strength of the association, how happy he was at the growth of modern universities and how he was looking forward to seeing what the future held for modern universities. Finally, we heard from Pam Tatlow, the associations chief executive and the lady who I believe responsible for putting the event together (with the aid of others). Pam gave a short but emotional speech about how working for MillionPlus and with modern universities has given her a rewarding outlook on the impact they have on higher education, how she knows that the ultimate goal in everything they do is for the students, and how rewarding it is to see success around her.
Overall, the event was a brilliant success, with everyone leaving with a smile on there face. You could really tell that everyone in attendance, regardless of who they worked for or came from, had the best intentions and the success of the students they serve at heart and mind. I learnt a lot about how important modern universities are, how they have had such a positive impact on young people (allowing people who may not have gone to university in the past to do so, being one of the benefits) and that although they have grown so much in 25 years there is still so a long way to go with so much more to achieve! As a student at, in my opinion, one of the best universities in the country (for many personal reasons) this event really showed me and allowed me to appreciate how amazing modern universities are and made me proud to be studying at one!