On 26th September 1992, Liverpool Polytechnic became Liverpool John Moores University following an Incorporation Ceremony in Liverpool Cathedral. A unique Roscoe Lecture took place recently to mark the University’s 25th anniversary, with its first Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Toyne, CBE DL, being interviewed by Honorary Fellow and broadcaster, Roger Phillips.
The conversation was a fascinating trip down memory lane, with Professor Toyne, who was Rector at Liverpool Polytechnic between 1986 and 1992 and LJMU Vice-Chancellor from 1992 to 2000, taking the audience on a journey from his childhood in a small mining village in Yorkshire to the City of Liverpool in the 1980s and the foundation of the University in 1992.
As a scholarship boy, Professor Toyne discovered a world of educational possibilities at Ripon Grammar School that enabled him to forge his own path rather than following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a butcher. Bristol University followed, where he gained a First Class degree in Geography and began his career in academia. “I loved to lecture because I was performing, and you could really inspire people,” explained Professor Toyne.
Following a sabbatical at the Department of Education and Science where he worked on the pioneering Educational Credit Transfer scheme, he explored how access to university could be widened by considering previous work and life experiences not just academic grades. As Deputy Rector of Chichester College, Professor Toyne had the freedom to further experiment with ideas he’d explored in the DfES, before moving onto “a place of revolution” - North East London Polytechnic.
When he was first approached by the City of Liverpool about the role of Rector at Liverpool Polytechnic he wasn’t sure, but was persuaded by the people he met in the city and was appointed in 1986.
Once in post, he set about widening access to the Liverpool Polytechnic. “No-one wanted to know about Liverpool,” he explained. “The University of Liverpool was struggling too, so we worked in partnership. All the city movers and shakers came together in partnership to lift the fabric and infrastructure of the Liverpool way of life and community.”
His vision for the Polytechnic benefited not just students but Liverpool too, with campus improvements and the transformation of the former North Western Hotel into student accommodation helping to regenerate the city centre. In 1988, the Educational Reform Act freed the Polytechnic from local control. “This was the beginning of a new era, a mixture of relief and worry, but we were freestanding and we could dream dreams,” said Professor Toyne. “We grew and we grew. We had great staff working as one. We had a vision, we had zeal.”
This zeal saw Professor Toyne play an instrumental role in government talks about Polytechnics gaining university status in 1992. “We wanted to be named after someone who believed that ‘potential could become a reality’. Sir John Moores was a true entrepreneur,” said Professor Toyne, when asked how the University got its name. “He was the total role model for a new kind of institution opening opportunity for anyone who may benefit and then go on to make a significant contribution to society.
“That ‘can do’ attitude takes me back to almost where I started, when I went to Ripon and realised that I could do things as well,” concluded Professor Toyne. “I’ve got to say this, yes I was in charge, but none of this would have been possible had it not been for that network of people who became great supporters and the incredible dedicated staff who shared our vision about potential becoming reality.”
Good Citizenship Awards
Roger Philips, Professor Sir Jon Murphy, Chair of the Roscoe Lecture Series, award-winner Lily Ost, St Andrew’s Church of England (Aided) Primary School, Professor Nigel Weatherill, LJMU Vice-Chancellor and Professor Peter Toyne
During the lecture a Good Citizenship Award was presented to Lily Ost from St Andrew’s Church of England (Aided) Primary School. Lily epitomises the underlying ‘four C’s’ of the School - Care, Courtesy, Consideration and Christian values. Not only has she initiated a School Book of Records to recognise pupil achievements but she has also been a caring ‘buddy’ to a Reception pupil who is partially sighted and raised funds for a local Hospice. An active member of the school choir, Lily has performed with the Wirral Symphony Orchestra, at The Big Sing in Chester Cathedral and in concerts for the Ladies Fellowship at St Andrew’s Church. Lily is now hoping to achieve the Wirral Civic Awards (Arrow, Birkett and Clatter) for helping others in the community.