Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Leeds Metropolitan University

Hello. My name is Kostas Economides and I am a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the South of England (USE for short). Well, actually that is not true really as the names of individuals and institutions in this blog have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty!

I noticed in the Times Higher the other day that Leeds Metropolitan University is considering a change of name. Maybe they think that the term Metropolitan is too reminiscent of an underground line or capital city police force! Or maybe they don't want to be grouped with London Metropolitan, Manchester Metropolitan or Cardiff Metropolitan universities!

Actually it seems that a report commissioned by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Susan Price, has concluded that the term Metropolitan "indicated a lower quality product" and was having a negative effect on recruitment, especially in overseas markets.

At one point the university was planning to change the name to Leeds Carnegie University, but now the choice appears to be between Leeds Beckett, Leeds Headingley and Leeds Riding University. The university is situated in Beckett Park near Headingley and is in the South Riding of the county of Yorkshire. How well these names would be recognised by potential overseas students is a moot point. Anyway, as the BBC has reported, changing the name from Leeds Metropolitan University has not gone down well with many past and present students. Over 3000 of them joined a Facebook protest group within a few days of the announcement of the plan to change the name. There were complaints too that the cost of the change, rumoured to be in the order of £250,000, was a poor use of funds that could be better spent in improving real resources.

Gus says this reminds him of the time, back in the 1990s, when our university changed its name to the University of the South of England (USE for short). At the time people said that the name was too vague - after all the South of England is a huge area - should our name not mention the city where we are located? But others said that the wider term would be very attractive to students. And they would soon find out where we were based through a simple web search. After all did people not realise that the University of the West of England was in Bristol, or that the University of Surrey was in Guildford? One way or another it seems to have been a good choice as we have seen applications increase at a time when other newer universities have had problems attracting students.

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