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Chris Smith (2002)

Ultraversity - letter of support


(full text)

Labour Member of Parliament for Islington South and Finsbury
Telephone 020-7219 5119
Fax 020-7219 5820

Professor Stephen Heppell
Anglia Polytechnic University
Victoria Road South
Essex CM1 1LL

8 April 2002

Dear Stephen,


It was a pleasure (as always) to see you again recently, and to hear about your rather exciting plans. I've since had a chance to read through the draft document you kindly left me with, and to think further about the ideas you are putting together.
It seems to me that you have included three brilliant ideas in the document. First, the entire focus of the proposal on a teaching/learning vehicle that deliberately sets out to "reach the people that normal residential universities can't". Second, the "exhibition", peer-reviewed, as the final test for students. And third, the use of mentors, many of them part-time or voluntary or with a lifetime of experience to share, as teachers. These are new, and winning, ideas.
It also seems to me that there are some parts of the vision set out in the document that still lack clarity. How does the actual learning happen?: will it be by internal discussion, by dialogue/debate between numbers of people, by the presentation of papers, by individual tuition, by testing of some kind during the whole of a course - or by a mixture of methods? It would be good to have some of this spelt out. How can the teaching or learning be guaranteed to be of a sufficiently high standard? Where are the measurements of excellence to come from? It must, after all, be more than just one
number of people talking - by however sophisticated their technological means - to another number of people. And how is the whole thing to be financed?

These are some initial reactions, meant to be helpful. I‘d be interested to talk further as your plans crystallise. The more I think about it, the more essential a very positive attitude from DfES becomes.

With best wishes,

Rt Hon Chris Smith MP

A letter thanking Prof Stephen Heppell for a meeting and paper outlining the Ultraversity Project.

"The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one's devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas - a place where history comes to life." — Norman Cousins, 1954