What became of the University of Manchester?

Regular readers will know that I am an alumnus of the University of Manchester, and for some reason I signed up to the Alumni Society and so receive their annual magazine.  The latest edition dropped through my letterbox last week and even the front cover is enough to tell you what’s inside and, by extension, what has gone deeply wrong with that institution and, I suspect, academia as a whole in Britain and the Western World.  Perhaps I’m extrapolating too much, but here is the front cover:

It’s hard to know where to start.  The title of “your manchester” dispensing of capital letters is the type of crap rebranding we saw in the New Labour era where anything with pedigree and reputation was thrown out in favour of being cool and edgy.  “Accelerate gender parity” makes no sense whatsoever, and looks as though it was dreamed up by somebody who didn’t really understand all three words on their own, let alone how they could form a sentence.  Then they have a statement regarding “the power of challenging stereotypes” underneath a picture of a token ethnic woman and the words “building our future together” in what must be the most cliché-driven magazine cover one can imagine.  Seriously, take away the Manchester University logo and this could have been issued by an airline, a local authority, a charity, a corporation, a hospital, or just about anybody else. It’s as generic as they come.  Challenging stereotypes, indeed.

Bad though the front cover is, it goes downhill from there.  Page 3 gives us a piece by the President and Vice Chancellor – a woman – complete with photo in which she tells us that following Brexit “both the city and the University are and will remain irrevocably part of Europe.”  Never mind the referendum result then, we’re just supposed to accept her political desires.

Page 4 gives us this picture of Lemn Sissay, the university’s chancellor since 2015:

Now doesn’t he just personify academic rigour and gravitas? Page 5 gives us an interview with him, in which we find out:

A year into his Chancellorship, Lemn is still learning a lot, still getting to grips with the enormity of the role and what he describes as the vastness of the University.

Experience?  Who needs it?

But he’s enjoying himself.

And that’s the main thing.

I was in Broadway Market in Hackney the other day when I saw five young women, bright as summer, sharp as a pin, looking fantastic, synapses sparkling and they shouted ‘Chancellor, Chancellor!’.  It turns out they were all newly graduated alumni.  We took a selfie and I put it on my Facebook page.

I’m not making this up.

Page 14 and 15 contain a feature on a lecture given by Manchester University alumnus Winnie Byanyima, who is now Oxfam’s International Executive Director.  Here’s what she had to say:

[S]he began by reminiscing about her arrival in Manchester as a refugee from the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin in Uganda.

“I was angry from having to leave my country.  But it was my experience here in Manchester that gave me the opportunity to turn that anger into activism,” she told a packed audience.  “I immediately joined other students.  We protested.  We organised.  We got involved in fierce intellectual debates.  We supported the anti-apartheid struggle and the decolonisation struggles in Africa at the time.”

So she was forced to flee a brutal, post-colonial African dictator who ate people and when she arrived in a safe haven she immediately started protesting against those who had taken her in and agitating for more of Africa to come under local rule.  That she can say this with a sense of pride, and the University of Manchester thinks putting this in their magazine is a good thing, speaks volumes.

Winnie went on to talk of major challenges that must be confronted, and the inequalities of income and wealth in a global economy that works for a few at the expense of the many, where almost a billion people go to bed hungry every night.

Apparently this is considered a good advertisement for the sort of education you can expect at Manchester.

She focused on the young women who work in factories producing clothes for high-street brands, working up to 23 hours a day and earning less than $4 for their labour.

Naturally, there is no mention of whether these women wanted the attentions of people like Winnie Byanyima.  It is just casually assumed that they need her help.

“We need to create a more human economy that works for people, rather than the other way round –  a human economy rather than an economy for the one per cent.”

Here we have an African-born woman who fled Idi Amin’s Uganda failing to notice the billions who have been lifted out of poverty by the phenomenal growth of the global economy over the past two or three decades.  Presumably the vast improvements in her native country since the mid-1990s put its population in the 1%.

Pages 19-21 consist of a piece about an award-winning electrical engineer, who also happens to be a woman.

Which is great, but back in 1999 I dated a girl who was studying Mechanical Engineering in the year below me.  She went by the name of Wendy and came from somewhere near Nottingham, and she was probably the cleverest person I’ve ever met anywhere, one of those extraordinarily gifted people who just turn up out of nowhere.  I think she completed her four year course with an average mark across all subjects of around 90%, and won every damned prize going in the engineering school such that even after her second year her name graced most of the plaques in the foyer.  I remember her sitting a 2-hour engineering maths exam and walking out at the earliest opportunity, which was 30 minutes.  She told me she’d finished after 20 minutes and that included checking.  She got 100%.  She was also a Grade 8 at piano and clarinet.  Like I say, an absolute genius (although not clever enough to keep clear of me).  My point is that exceptionally clever women have been excelling in hard engineering subjects at Manchester University for at least 20 years, it is nothing new.

Which is why pages 19 and 20 are particularly grating, containing the story from the cover about “accelerating gender parity” with one Naa Acquah – a Londoner born to Ghanaian parents – as the featured individual:

She became the first black female General Secretary (of  the Students’ Union) in 2015…presiding over the most diverse Executive Team mix in the history of the Union.

A diverse Union, you say? This would be the same Union that banned the feminist Julie Bindel from speaking at an event on, ironically, free speech and then followed that up by banning Milo Yiannopoulos from the same event.  But of course, at a modern university the colour of somebody’s skin is so much more important than maintaining diversity of thought.  The entire article is a litany of third-wave feminist claptrap complete with myths about the gender pay gap and sexual assault “on campus”, followed by an admission that Ms Acquah finds Beyoncé “inspirational”.  This Beyoncé:

Page 28-29 features an article on how a former graduate from Manchester is now mentoring a current student who is from Nigeria, just in case we haven’t got the message that Manchester University is so very diverse:

In case there are still spectacularly thick people reading the magazine that still haven’t got the message, the editors treat us to an article on a “widening participation programme” featuring one Dr Valeed Ghafoor who came from a disadvantaged background otherwise known as “the state school system”.

Page 36 gives us the profiles of three people who have won awards for being “outstanding and inspirational”:

Tell me you didn’t see that coming!

Pages 40-45 contain pictures of various people: 11 are women, 12 are ethnic minorities, 1 is a half-normal looking white male.

The back page is devoted to begging alumni for donations, motivating us to do so by including a picture of “Britain’s first black professor” and this picture:

Nah, sorry.  I’m not giving money to a university that has embraced poisonous identity politics, thinks nothing of ramming third-wave feminism down the throats of its students and alumni, and advertises itself as nothing more than a hive of dumbed-down, PC conformity.

Twenty years ago us students at Manchester were told the colour of people’s skin didn’t matter, and nobody batted an eyelid at a woman doing engineering or thought there was a shortage of female students occupying key positions.  Now all that’s changed, and the message I am getting loud and clear is that as a white British male I am no longer welcome.

Time to withdraw from the alumni association, I think.

Share

43 thoughts on “What became of the University of Manchester?

  1. That chancellor looks dead in that photo, like someone mysteriously murdered by a foreign agent in an episode of “The Avengers”.

  2. Hmmm. There are plenty of photos of white males, even if it’s clear the diversity officers have been all over it.

    And even 20 years ago, students from state schools were distinctly under-represented. That was definitely true of the Victoria – don’t know about UMIST.

    Sissay isn’t a dreadful choice for chancellor – it’s an honorary position and nothing academic. I think his predecessor was Anna Ford.

  3. That said, I’m in no doubt we had a better experience as students there than anyone going there now. Youth of today, eh?

  4. On face value, politically correct dogma is more important to the university than academic excellence. I assume they got the unemployed humanities alumni to prepare this guff.
    Could the Vice Chancellor’s EU enthusiasm in any way be linked to the millions of pounds of funding MU receives from the European Regional Development Fund, or the fact that the Manchester Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence is located there?

  5. Hmmm. There are plenty of photos of white males, even if it’s clear the diversity officers have been all over it.

    It’s been done with such crudity, though. There’s just no subtlety to it, it’s page after page of tokenism.

    And even 20 years ago, students from state schools were distinctly under-represented. That was definitely true of the Victoria – don’t know about UMIST.

    Nah, I was there in 1996 at Victoria: definitely most were from the comprehensive schools. Bear in mind it is a massive university: there are probably not enough public schoolkids left to fill Manchester once Oxbridge, etc. have taken their fill.

    Sissay isn’t a dreadful choice for chancellor – it’s an honorary position and nothing academic. I think his predecessor was Anna Ford.

    She was, and I’d agree he’s not dreadful: but it just smacks of trying too hard to be cool and edgy in an institution which I think ought to be maintaining old-school standards. I don’t care what your professional position is, no adult should be writing about posting selfies to Facebook with a bunch of giggling women behaving like teenagers.

  6. Yes – most students at the Victoria were comphrensive, but it was about 70%. That’s underrepresented, compared to the, what, 95% of people educated in state schools?

  7. I am going, being one of the nastiest yooman beings evah, to indulge in a bit of fun:

    –what he describes as the vastness of the University.

    Would this be the same vastness as a city, or a county, or even country? Or perhaps an intellectual desert of, oh, I dunno, an arid landscape devoid of contrasting ideas and unregulated opinions? Now that’s vast.

    –enjoying himself

    You beat me to it, Tim, but hey, enjoyment is what it is all about these days.

    –I was in Broadway Market in Hackney

    I thought Manchester didn’t have a Hackney? Wow, one lives and learns

    Later on:

    –I was angry from having to leave my country.

    I can understand sadness, or regret or even a determination to go back one day, but an anger? Get over it and anyway, why bring it here, chuck?

    –We got involved in fierce intellectual debates.

    With who? People who couldn’t understand your anger? Bet it wasn’t opposing views, because no one does that in a university much

    –We supported the anti-apartheid struggle and the decolonisation struggles in Africa at the time.

    I bet you did, from good old safe England. Mind you, ‘at the time’ suggests that you wouldn’t want to do it now, as in um…. China colonising huge swathes of Africa for its minerals.

    –Winnie went on to talk of major challenges that must be confronted

    On whose say so? Must? MUST? Or else, what?

    –where almost a billion people go to bed hungry every night.

    Good general figure that billion, well worth bandying about especially as it avoids calling on actual statistics (if any exist, natch)

    –young women who work in factories producing clothes for high-street brands, working up to 23 hours a day and earning less than $4 for their labour.

    F*cking numbers again… 23 hours a day? What? They sleep for one hour and don’t collapse?

    — a human economy rather than an economy for the one per cent.

    Like, I dunno, Labour and socialist leaders, the elite who make laws they don’t obey, communist dictators, heads of charities… yes, those are the one per cent who take it all, honeybun. Good luck with challenging them.

    –presiding over the most diverse Executive Team mix in the history of the Union

    Oh wow, that will be very long history I bet, and now it is diverse it is so much better because ordinary, scummy non-diverse people couldn’t have done what they do, obviously.

    Thanks for indulging me. OTOH I am no fan of Manchester. I used to live in Salford so don’t give me your big-city-next-door crap.

    (PS done on a Mac which never allows pasting Italics into blog comment. I suffer(?) from the same problem at places like David Thompson’s page. How I suffer for my art)

  8. The only part of Manchester I’ve ever visited was Salford. Can’t say I liked the look of it. I prefer the only part of Liverpool I remember. The Mersey Tunnel.

  9. Yes – most students at the Victoria were comphrensive, but it was about 70%. That’s underrepresented, compared to the, what, 95% of people educated in state schools?

    Okay, I see what you mean. But that would leave any university with more than 5% non-state educated students as “underrepresented”, but I’m not sure this is a problem, let alone one that needs addressing. If a Russell Group university is 70% comprehensive, then job done, no?

  10. The only part of Manchester I’ve ever visited was Salford. Can’t say I liked the look of it.

    Salford is a shithole, yes. Not a bad university, though.

  11. Watcher,

    Heh, thanks!

    I thought Manchester didn’t have a Hackney?

    He lives in London. Which is presumably why he’s still learning about Manchester University.

    Like, I dunno, Labour and socialist leaders, the elite who make laws they don’t obey, communist dictators, heads of charities… yes, those are the one per cent who take it all, honeybun.

    Good point.

  12. If a university would like the widows of its alumni to leave them money, they would be wise not to piss off the old boys or their wives.

  13. @dearieme,

    The University of Manchester has never been particularly popular with the historical British elite. After all, it was a Catholic school to start with, and that just will not do. And it’s in a beastly area of a beastly town. The Cholmondely-Warners and Pilkington-Smyths were notable only for their relative absence.

    When Tim/Bloke were students there, it was, however, chock full of the issue of insanely wealthy Africans (and other diverse and vibrant insanely wealthy types, as well as Brits not good enough for Oxbridge – Tim/Bloke types, in other words.

    So you could say they are still hitting up the right groups for wonga.

  14. BiG,

    I don’t remember many wealthy Africans, and there were a lot of them at my boarding school so I’d have noticed. Most people were middle or upper-middle class with a load of Greeks ducking national service thrown in and a handful of other foreigners. But maybe that’s because I lived in Owen’s Park, which wasn’t the poshest of halls.

  15. @TN
    “The entire article is a litany of third-wave feminist claptrap complete with myths about the gender pay gap and sexual assault “on campus”, followed by an admission that Ms Acquah finds Beyoncé “inspirational”. This Beyoncé:”

    It never ceases to amaze me how so many leftie feminazis claim Beyonce/Rhiana/Kardasfan are “inspirational” when all they do is use their sex and not wearing many clothes to promote themselves. Yet, if a male compliments a feminazi on her appearance a twitter storm erupts – eg Charlotte Proudman

    Hypocrite is too mild a word, they are delusional verging on insane.

  16. There just might be a point to these new playgrounds for the intellectually-challenged. As automation improves, we’ll never return to full employment, so, with an ever-growing population there’s a need to provide pseudo-work to prevent mass dissatisfaction and potential violence. “Learning” about hair and fashion and alternative therapies, etc. can only go so far: more engaging activities are required for the masses.
    These new universities are providing courses suitable for the snowflake generation which will give them just what they need to live a happy life (in their terms) – the alternative is civil unrest. The emphasis on equality and what’s acceptable to say/think to avoid the sensitive little souls taking offence will help greatly with developing these changes to society.
    Personally I loathe all this nonsense, but can see there’s little point in opposing the inevitable.

  17. I recently withdrew my annual gift to my alma mater. It was unfortunate, but the last alumni magazine was too much for me. It’s a smaller school in the US that only gives degrees in science and engineering where the attrition rate is about 40% the first year alone. I thought they would be immune from this type of nonsense, I was wrong.

    Given what it takes to get a degree there anyone who really stands out is frighteningly bright. One woman classmate sat with me for the first exam for a Professional Engineer ticket. It’s an 8 hour grueling test. She finished in 5 and passed with flying colors. Equality would have been a setback for her.

  18. Pcar,

    Yet, if a male compliments a feminazi on her appearance a twitter storm erupts – eg Charlotte Proudman

    Oh Gawd, Proudman. She carved out a nice little niche for herself penning Guardian articles railing against The Patriarchy in the aftermath of that. I’m hoping my not having heard of her in a while is because she is now scrubbing the bins out the back of a particularly greasy fast-food joint somewhere off the A1.

  19. Allen,

    Equality would have been a setback for her.

    Indeed, and that was the point about Wendy*: she didn’t need any special treatment, if anything we needed her held back to stop showing up the rest of us. To be fair she was a special case and I genuinely haven’t met anybody as phenomenally clever as her, but what pisses me off the most is that none of this gender crap existed when I did Mech Eng: we had women on our course, and nobody thought anything of it. True, there weren’t many but then there weren’t many boys doing History of Art. To us in the engineering school we were engineers first and men/women second: we simply didn’t care if our partner on a project was a boy or a girl, we just got on with it, and I carried this attitude into my professional life.

    It is only in the past few years have I found people trying to browbeat me into noticing the sex of my professional engineering colleagues, and it is really pissing me off: I just don’t care, they are engineers, end of.

    *BTW, she shunned Cambridge because it was too posh for her and she preferred the lifestyle Manchester offered – something that never gets mentioned whenever we hear of “working class” kids not going to Oxbridge. She could have waltzed into Oxford or Cambridge, but visited the latter and just didn’t like the vibe of the place, whereas she loved Manchester. It’s always pissed me off that people assume it is everyone’s goal to go to Oxbridge and the brightest people simply don’t want to go somewhere else.

  20. @Tim,

    I’m an Allen lad. There were tons of foreigners.

    I certainly chose Manchester over Oxbridge.

  21. The one thing I find encouraging is that we not only do we have people who want to be engineers rather than ‘African-GenderStudies’ students, say, but that a fair number of them turn out to be good at it too. The west is literally built on things that either stay still when they’re supposed to or move when they are meant to, and the more we have of this the better we are.

    I’m getting old, which is a real shame as my brain still says I am in my early twenties (but then self-aggrandisement has always been my problem) but as I get older I am increasingly in awe of people who can do things. Maybe there was a time when I was younger and I thought people who theorised and spouted were great but with the passing years I can see we have to have things that work. It would help if we had people who could work too, but hey let’s take one step at a time here.

    All praise then to those who can do something that is of value, even if currently the trend is to praise the squishy, useless ‘thinkers’ who never even notice that the bus shelter can withstand storms and the bus arrives (more or less) on time with the heating working.

  22. For my sins I get three Alumni Society magazines, UCL and the IOE magazines are almost as bad as Manchester. The last time I looked at Sussex, which should be a world leader in this sort of nonsense, once again as in many things Sussex is not what it once was.

    Sussex used to have my phone number and call up occasionally to beg for my money, that all stopped when some arts student called up, and I explained to her how the university had destroyed one of the top chemistry departments in the country, so why should I fund them if that is how they care about my profession…

    N.B. I have never given any money to an Alumni society but still get the magazines, perhaps I should write and ask each one to print it on absorbent paper.

  23. TJ,

    For my sins I get three Alumni Society magazines, UCL and the IOE magazines are almost as bad as Manchester.

    Indeed, I am quite sure that every university pushes out similar rubbish as a matter of course.

  24. SOAS and Reading here- the alumni correspondence goes straight in the bin.

    Safer that way

  25. I’m an Owens alumnus, I left in ’96. I’m glad on this evidence that I’ve never donated, though I’m sure most of the staff & students just want to get on with their work. This magazine the usual story: a load of micro-aggressions (to coin a phrase) against the notion that the point of higher education is learning, rather than what they call ‘progressive social change’. There must be a gap in the market for a university that avoids this sort of thing.

  26. Stephen K,

    though I’m sure most of the staff & students just want to get on with their work

    Indeed, and this is the problem with student politics: a tiny, minuscule vocal minority get themselves “elected” on a turn out of less than 1%, then start trying to run the place while everyone else just gets on with their work. When I was at university it never occurred to me I was there to start campaigning for change, as opposed to getting a damned degree and getting out of there.

    I can’t blame the students much, they don’t know any better, but – and David Thompson often brings this up – what the hell are the University staff doing in encouraging this infantile nonsense?! That’s what depresses me more than anything about this pathetic magazine, it shows the adults are marching to the tune of the children.

  27. Our house gets begging letters from nine educational institutions (which means that three are too incompetent to write to us: there’s also one that is defunct). Only one has much chance of getting a penny. We do discuss which charities to support, but are pissed off by nearly all the national charities, including the two we used to support by Deed of Covenant.

    Our short list of national possibilities consists of “the lifeboats” and the Sal-Dals (even though we are atheists). I’ve just started considering the Guide Dogs – anyone here know anything about them?

    Anyway, one rule is simple even though I hadn’t formulated it until yesterday. Any educational institution that implies “we don’t want your grandchildren” or “your grandchildren will be second class citizens” can just piss off.

  28. Help the Heroes is a good charity, really helped a friend of mine out a year or so ago.

  29. Tim,

    The name “Joe Blow” remembers me of another gentleman commenting in one of the few blogs i deem worth following, the mighty Big Lychee of Hong Kong. The last couple of years chronicles in there are a very graphic illustration of what’s happening when the real power is dead serious stamping out ruthlessly any existing difference, compared to the pussies pretending to do so in West campuses.

  30. We do focus our marketing themes on regional cultures eg Emirati people and settings in our Mid-East capabilities and African people and elephants on our African brand. But when it comes to Oz the action shots are typically of burly Anglo Saxon males pushing through.

    So if you apply the same logic here then they should be showing local cultural leaders, in historic settings beaming with conservative certainty, maybe even some Christian symbolism as well out of respect for the local folk.

    Horses for courses.

  31. Marostegan,

    It may well be the same chap, he gets around a few blogs. Let me check out Big Lychee, thanks.

  32. Tim,Help for Heroes is a well intentioned charity but i know for a fact it is gradually being infiltrated by professional charity types who seem to be awarded ridiculous salaries and perks for what is basically party planning.

  33. marc,

    Thanks for the heads-up on that. I am not surprised, at one point it had more money than it knew what to do with and I guess it was a matter of time before the “professionals” stepped in and hoovered it up. It’s a shame because I know 2-3 years ago it was doing good work with injured or sick soldiers.

  34. Looking back over 50 years to my time at university (Imperial College) and comparing it with today, all I see is a university system going backwards.

    It appears that ability, self motivation and high standards are no longer required and have been replaced with this thing called ‘diversity’ and ‘political correctness’, neither of which does much for employment or advancing the country.

    I was reading a short while ago of a university that is lowering its intake standards to allow ‘disadvantaged’ inner-city students to enrol with them forgetting that that reduces the value of any degree they bestow.

    There is an answer to the problem but we don’t have any politicians with the intestinal fortitude to do anything about it. They need to drop the idea that ‘everyone should go to university’ and restore the technical colleges and trade schools (not everyone needs or wants a degree but they do need skills). Then they need to shake up the university teaching staff by forcing them to work for at least 2 years in the subject they teach out in the real world (no real world work experience, no teaching position). There are other things that should be done but they come later.

  35. I have a good cover story for the yooni rag that ticks all the boxes.

    Splitting the Atom & the Rebuilding of Canterbury University

    During this one hundred year anniversary since Ernest Rutherford and our research team undertook the most significant scientific breakthrough of the century when they split the atom right here on campus at Manchester University, Robert Strangefellow our of Civil highlights our own contribution to the structural engineering recovery efforts in use to save his original Canterbury College, University of New Zealand following the devastating Christchurch earthquakes and in appreciation of the 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson university education.

    http://www.westminster-https://thumb9.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/125293/108975086/stock-photo-new-zealand-circa-stamp-printed-by-new-zealand-shows-canterbury-university-college-circa-108975086.jpg

    abbey.org/__data/assets/thumbnail/0020/8507/Rutherford-grave.jpeg

Comments are closed.