25 Jul 2017
Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, has today been made an Honorary Doctor of Education by the University of Bedfordshire.
Addressing the assembled audience, Pam said:
"President, Vice-Chancellor, staff, families and friends of today’s graduates, my family, but most of all those of you who are now graduates and postgraduates of the University of Bedfordshire, one of the great modern universities of the UK.
"I feel exceptionally privileged to be honoured in this way today - although I was somewhat worried that the citation sounded a bit like an obituary - but when later in the year, I do step down as Chief Executive of MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, somehow, I don’t think I’m going to stay quiet about my passion for education and its links with the wider world.
"The reasons for this are in many ways reflected in this University’s history. Bedfordshire is a University with a proud and long history of delivering teaching and research with impact in, and for, the communities in which it is placed, communities which these days are globally connected through the University’s international graduates and trans-national partnerships.
"The Luton campus of the University at Park Square was at one time the secondary modern school, teaching the majority of boys and girls in the town unless they passed the 11 plus - and only a few people were allowed to pass each year - in which case you went to the grammar school, had opportunities to study for different exams and left school later than the secondary modern students.
"But like my mother in the North East, you could pass the 11 plus but not go to the grammar school. In my mother’s case her Dad, my grandfather, could only afford to pay for one child to have the grammar school uniform – and he chose his son, my uncle, to have the uniform and not my mother.
"So, you’ll guess that I’m not a fan of selective education or indeed any kind of education system with financial barriers or which has high tuition fees and over the years I’ve also been quite keen on women’s rights.
"At Bedford and at Putteridge something different was developing - a model of teacher training that was absolutely pioneering in its day, based on a progressive philosophy of education developed by Friedrich Froebel, a German educationalist who had developed the Kindergarten system - based on the idea that children were like plants - that their various skills were in different stages of development or growth, and the teacher, like a gardener, should understand their mental, physical and wider needs.
"So – second confession - I do worry that those who promote higher education as a market and the idea that students are simply consumers are forgetting some of the lessons of the early teacher training offered here and the wider benefits of what you’ve all achieved.
"Now I know that to get where you are today won’t have been easy – dissertations and projects where you left it that bit late, money and other challenges – and thank you also to the family and friends who have supported you.
"But graduates you’ve made it. You’ve been amazing and this is your day. Be proud of your achievements, celebrate your success.
"And whatever the opportunities and challenges ahead, I know that as graduates of this University, the University of Bedfordshire, you will be the pioneers of the future and that you will take with you, not only a spirit of innovation, but also a passion for education and social justice which is an integral part of this University’s DNA.
"Thank you, thank you for listening, congratulations and good luck."