BY TOBY PORTER
Sir Simon Hughes has declared he will do all he can to find homes for people sleeping rough as part of his new job as Chancellor of London South Bank University.
The former Southwark and Bermondsey MP for 32 years was installed into the ceremonial post last week and declared he will not just turn up to meetings a few times a year.
Instead, he will use the role to campaign for some of the equality and diversity issues he has campaigned for as a Liberal Democrat MP for more than three decades.
He said: “I want to see if we can come forward with recommendations to reduce urgently the distressing number of people sleeping and begging on our streets in SE1 and to propose the quickest, best and most affordable way of providing housing for those on low incomes.
“Go anywhere in the world and say you come from London South Bank University.
Few will not know where we are, one of the best named and best located universities in the world. For 35 years I have been a huge enthusiast for LSBU – for its past, present and its future.
“To be appointed Chancellor is a great privilege of my London life. I will continue to campaign for the causes I believe in. I still hope and will work to try to make sure the UK will be able to reverse its decision to leave the EU.
I will still campaign for civil liberties and freedom of speech for all, and for a much fairer society with a much narrower gap between the lowest and highest pay.
I will still campaign for a better settlement for student finance, particularly to encourage mature, part-time and distance learners, and to develop apprenticeships for people of all ages.
I will still campaign for people of all abilities, sexuality and belief to be treated with respect and dignity.
I am honoured there are people with us today from six of the great world faiths – Christian and Muslim, Jew and Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh.
“This university has achieved great success in graduate employment, social inclusion, recruitment of mature students and students from minority communities and includes Lambeth College, South Bank Engineering Academy and South Bank UTC.
We do brilliant teaching and research. We have over 17,000 students in seven schools, with many internationally renowned courses such as those in the School of the Built Environment and Architecture.
“I do not wish to be a Chancellor who appears occasionally. I am ambitious for this university. I want us to continue to rise in all national academic and related rankings, and I want us to rise in the annual survey of national student satisfaction.
He also said he wanted to:
- Link LSBU with other universities in the other three capital cities of the UK and with the leading technical university in all of the other 27 capital cities of the EU
- Reinstate an annual South Bank public lecture by eminent personalities on key topics
- Give residents guidance on education, apprenticeships and skills opportunities
- Support the sports academy to grow in numbers of users and impact on local communities.
Mr Hughes added: “Our job is to open all the doors of study which lead to the places of employment. Our job is to continue to set thousands of people on the road to opportunities and their chosen paths for fulfilment and success.
Our job is to equip students with the academic, technical, emotional and mental strength to survive the challenges of life and make the greatest contribution.”
Those present at the Southbank’s Purcell Room included the UK’s most successful female Olympic athlete and rowing gold medallist, Dame Katherine Grainger, TV presenter and Liberal Democrat peer Lady Floella Benjamin, and TV presenter Anthea Turner.
Three choirs performed during the ceremony: Welsh choir, ‘Cor y Boro’ (Borough Chapel Choir) sang ‘Calon Lan’ (‘A Pure Heart) by Daniel Jones; LSBU’s staff choir performed The Kinks’ ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and Grace Notes, a student choir from Bacon’s College in Rotherhithe, sang ‘Colours’.