In choosing to contrast Birkbeck with the University of Cambridge, Marthe de Ferrer hits a nail squarely on the head (If you’ve got £100m to spare, don’t give it to Cambridge, 7 February). The decade I spent teaching at Birkbeck taught me more about the spirit and purpose of education than three spent in more conventional universities. Lacking almost all the perquisites now seemingly essential to attract full-timers, without exception Birkbeck’s mature part-timers made up for what they might have lacked in facile sophistication with hard work, a genuine desire to learn, and respect for knowledge. Benefactors can of course do as they wish, but “Matthew principle” (Matthew 25:29) donations to Cambridge, at a time when my old college and others really could use a fraction of the same money to far greater effect, simply offend me.
Emeritus professor in geography, Birkbeck, University of London
• Marthe de Ferrer should not be too surprised about Oxbridge graduates enriching their old universities. Most of the ministers, senior civil servants and national infrastructure commissioners who approved the destructive so-called “Oxford-Cambridge arc” without any consultation graduated there.Continue reading...