Film ID: YFA 444 Video of YFA 444 Talk about Leeds 1978 TALK ABOUT LEEDS c.1978 Visitor TabsDescription Made by the University of Leeds, this is a promotional film that explores both campus and the city, specifically to aid sixth formers make a decision about university. Title - Talk About Leeds The film opens with a shot of the Leeds city skyline. This is followed by exteriors of many of the University buildings. Inside, four students are discussing the different subjects they are currently studying and how they came about that decision. One of the students speaks about his Engineering programme, something which he has wanted to study right from the start. One of the other students points out that many people change their minds and declare a different major after starting university. Leeds is the type of place where students can do that as you can take a variety of courses to combine studies. Another one of the students, studying law, points out that not all students go to university straight from school. After discussing some of the good things about the University, the students talk about their arrival to Leeds, how it is a quite large school and city, and this can sometimes be a bit of a shock to new students. Following this is footage of different parts of the campus which are filled with students. There is an advertisement for a disco, some students are handing out flyers, and there are shots of the diverse student body. There are shots of various campus buildings including, but not limited to, Agricultural Science, Medical Engineering, and Education. Then, a science class is taking place in a large lecture theatre. The commentary explains that these classes can reach up to 150 students, and lectures can be quite fast-paced compared to sixth form lessons. Other types of lessons are shown including small group study, tutorials, and one-on-one discussions. One of the University science labs is full of students including one of the boys from the beginning of the film. While carrying out an experiment, his commentary explains that he enjoys practical subjects. Also, as a third year he has the opportunity to participate in a research project which may gain notoriety. One if his professors comes in and discusses the lab test results. Out in an open field, engineering students are surveying the land. Their assignment involves designing an overpass and service area on the motorway to Hull. Later they discuss their designs with their professor, and other students can be seen working on blueprints. In the Law Department, one of the boys from the beginning of the film is studying at a desk. He then points out the high quality law library and university library facilities. His commentary is accompanies by a tracking shot of the large library on campus. The Student Union also provides services for the university students, and there are posters advertising the various events which are held at the SU. The SU building also houses cafeteria facilities, a disco, and a pub. Also highlighted is the student run campus newspaper. Different activities are available to students including volunteer work. One student, interested in social work, is seen at a school playground looking after the children, playing sports, and doing arts and crafts. There is also a music society which performs in the concert hall. The University also has facilities in the Yorkshire Dales which are available for students to use, and the film includes sweeping views of the scenic countryside. The scenery is not limited to the Dales as the film shows many parks and green areas around the University campus where students can study and relax in the sun. The film then goes onto highlight the different attractions of the city including its many shops and markets. The last section of the film addresses the different accommodation available to students. On campus rooms and flats are available as well as private accommodation around the city. The engineering student is seen riding his bike along the city streets to a house in the middle of a terraced street. The students comment that new student may be scared, but university presents lots of opportunity; the sky's the limit. It is graduation day, and all the graduates are gathered together in a large hall. They are dressed in caps and gowns and make their way to the front of the hall as their names are called. The crowd applauds as each graduate receives his or her diploma. After the ceremony, the students gather outside with their friends and family. Title - The student talking were: Kathryn Baker, Geoffrey Daunt, Norman Train, Robert Hockney. The film closes with a shot of the Leeds city skyline. Title - Produced by the University of Leeds Television Service Context This is one of a number of films made by the Audio Visual Department (AVD) at Leeds University throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. The head of the AVD was John Murray, who had previously worked for the Yorkshire Film Company and was around this time also the Chairman of the Film Panel of the Yorkshire Arts Association. John is still working for Honley Films – see the Contexts for Berry Brow (1965) and Leeds Medical School (1971). The Audio Visual Department, or just the Film Unit, made several promotional films for the University, including Time to Do (1971) and Leeds University Presents 23 Minutes (c.1983). It was not unusual for universities to make promotional films to attract students during the post war decades of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. The YFA has several for Sheffield University and around the same time that this film was made Bradford University made one for their Careers Open Day (1975) and, earlier, The Potential Graduate (1968). As well as dealing with the academic and practical sides of student life, there are some glimpses into the wider activities and movements that students become involved in during the 1970s. Among these was the growth in interest in what conventionally have come to be called new religious movements, although other terms have been suggested, including the popular, more pejorative, one of ‘cults’ (suggesting that some are not really religions). Here we see one student selling The Divine Times, the UK publication of the Divine Light Mission, with its customary picture of its then leader Prem Rawat (son of its founder) – many having a guru like figure at their head. This was one of a number of Eastern inspired ‘spiritual’ organisations, that come into prominence in the 1970s, attracting a young following. Although many of these groupings have come under severe criticism for heavy-handed indoctrination – giving rise to much debate of what ‘indoctrination’, or ‘brainwashing’, actually is – the sociologist James Downton has claimed that this particular grouping had a benign effect on its members. Also seen in the film are the newspaper sellers at the entrance of the student union, a very common sight at that time, with a variety of left wing papers to choose from. The industrial unrest of the 1970s was accompanied by similar political activism among many students, including the rise of feminist and environmental movements. Here we see someone selling the Morning Star, newspaper of the Communist Party. Student demonstrations were very common, often complaining about the diminishing value of the maintenance grant (never mind having to pay one’s own tuition fees!). One current student at Sheffield, Liam Deacon, who notes the great decrease in the level of student political activism between now and previous decades, laments that now students “have become the most passive and politically impotent generation in living memory”. It isn’t known when the film was made, but the headline in the Morning Star, "’Free jailed pickets’ call grows”, provides a clue. There were two famous cases of pickets being jailed in the 1970s. In 1972 five dockers, the Pentonville Five, were jailed under the 1971 Industrial Relations Act, refusing to pay fines, but were soon released by the Heath government in the face of an impending general strike. The following year two building workers, Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson, the Shrewsbury Two, were jailed for flying picketing. Not having the industrial clout of the dockers, their sentences stood (the process of their conviction remains hidden in secrecy). Ricky Tomlinson was released in 1975, Des Warren the following year. So this suggests 1975 as the year this was filmed. The main focus of the film are the interviews with the students and the student activities. This gives a different emphasis to the film than many other university promotional films, revealing the student origins of the film. The fact that it was made by students possibly also accounts for the more critical edge these interviews give in relation to some of the teaching methods. Some of these criticisms, of the long uninterrupted lecture for example, have partly been taken on board by changes in teaching during the intervening decades. Although lectures remain an important part of university life, they are being put under increasing pressure from new technology and teaching models: innovative teaching, active learning, student engagement, online learning and the flipped classroom, to name just a few. Now the ‘student experience’ is presented as being crucial as universities vie with each other in the marketplace, with student surveys leading to student satisfaction league tables. The National Student Survey, and the various league tables, have been shown to have an effect on student applications, especially for the higher achievers. Yet these have been subject to criticism from many within higher education. The controversial sociologist Frank Furedi complains that the NSS is having a baleful effect on universities and teaching. Furedi argues that “the results do not measure educational quality and the process infantilises students and corrodes academic integrity.” Nor does it measure “the quality of the experience of the education received”. He sums up the long list of criticisms of the NSS he offers thus, “it has the potential for misrepresenting the strengths and weaknesses of an institution to the outside world [and has] a corrosive impact on the internal life of academia. The inexorable consequence of the current obsession with student experience is the adoption of a risk-averse and defensive approach towards the provision of undergraduate courses.” It may well be true that students are not always the best at assessing the quality of education, but the turn towards students becoming more involved with the whole educational process has widespread support. This film is in effect part of an earlier example of that. Nowadays students can much more easily make video recordings of their experiences and observations of student life, and then post them on the internet. Only a film as long as this would probably be ruled out as going well beyond the current attention span norm. This film shows students out working with local children, and the connection with local services lives on with. A recent example of this is a film on Change, the Leeds based human rights organisation led by Disabled People, made by a current student at Leeds within the Institute of Communications Studies (ICS). The work of the ICS shows the potential for universities and students to be active participants in their social and political environments in a way that goes beyond that of their counterparts in the 1970s. References Des Warren, The Key To My Cell, New Park Publications, 1982. Paul Dean, ‘Uniworsity?’, a review of Stefan Collini, What Are Universities For?, the New Criterion, 2, , Vol. 31, Issue 5, 2012 Newman's own. By: Ryan, Alan, New Statesman, 13647431, , Vol. 141, Issue 5094 Liam Deacon, The Death of Student Activism and The Rise of Lad Culture and Political Apathy in Universities, Huffington Post, 6th March 2014 Stephen Gibbons, Eric Neumayer and Richard Perkins, ‘Student satisfaction, league tables and university applications’, September 2013 Frank Furedi, Times Higher Educational Supplement, 8th March 2012 Frank Furedi, In praise of the university lecture and its place in academic scholarship, 10th December 2013 University of Leeds – the winning entry of the Student Video Competition 2012 Further Information James Downton, Sacred Journeys: The Conversion of Young Americans to Divine Light Mission , Columbia University Press, 1979.