The Rolls Royce of Polytechnics

I was chatting away to one of my oldest and certainly dearest friends about the lecturers we had when we were at Manchester Polytechnic in the first year of its existence. It has since passed away, transformed into Manchester Metropolitan University, but he and I did our degrees there which is how we met. The degree we took was awarded by the CNAA, the Council for National Academic Awards, which has also ceased to exist. This caused some confusion when I changed jobs and my new employers were trying to authenticate my qualifications, and neither my Alma Mater nor my degree awarding body was still extant.

We reminisced  again for I don’t know how many hundredth time about how we had arrived at the Poly; it was made up of several different faculties, former places of learning cobbled together to create what the director, Dr Smith, called ‘the Rolls Royce of Polytechnics’, and we know what happened to Rolls Royce! I’d not done that badly in my A-levels but I crucially hadn’t got Latin O-level (which is a whole other story of bad luck and ill-justice, but which served me so well in the end!) At the time it seemed the ultimate of the last chance saloons, but not only were we fortunate enough to meet great people and lifelong friends, and get a degree which we’d had to work hard for and was excellent in every respect, but we had wonderful, inspiring lecturers and tutors.

When I think back to the lectures, to the tutorials, to the classes I had, I can’t think of a duff teacher  and I would like to say a huge thank you to them; our degrees comprised three subjects, two main and one subsidiary, The syllabi of the different subjects matched each other, so when we were doing 17th century British history, we were doing 17th century literature – English and French, ditto Politics, Spanish and all the other Arts subjects offered. My friend and I reminisced about these amazing teachers, unung heroes for the most part because the Poly never got the credit it deserved, and I believe most moved on to other universities and colleges.

The reason (as if we needed one) to talk about those old and happy times, was a particular history lecturer. She taught me, but my friend only came across her in open lectures, and by reputation. We of course were young, she seemed ancient, but she made a real impression on me. She was so knowledgeable, so learned, very old school but none the worse for that, and she had an air of faintly despising our ignorance (not us, of course) I thought she must be at least seventy (in those days the gap between young people and older people was vast.) she was very slim and slight, with wavy brown hair and rather an austere manner. She wore autumnal coloured clothes, browns, and faded greens, and all were long and straight.

My friend had mentioned her previously and I Googled her, and wonder of wonder, she is still with us! She is just over ninety, so she wasn’t as ancient as we had imagined. We were thrilled and delighted, and my friend has been in touch with associates of hers, sending our warm wishes and thanks to her. There were many other people I would like to know about, teachers I would love to find that they had deserved success and happiness, but their names are less unusual, and I’m not sure I ever will know what happened to them. I wish them all well, and thank them!

Here is a link to my friend’s fascinating history blog – so wide-ranging and varied I can guarantee there will be things to interest you, and more on Manchester Poly:


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