Statement by Bruce Bennett
Senior Lecturer and Director of Study for Film
One of seven new British universities founded in the 1960s, the aim of Lancaster University was to pioneer a new approach to higher education with interdisciplinary courses bridging the divide between the two cultures of arts and science. Fifty years later, this approach still informs our teaching. Film students graduating this year will have found that as well as a good academic understanding of cinema and its history, and a practical understanding of film production, they have encountered ideas from broader fields of study. This challenging interdisciplinary approach is what makes Lancaster a socially and intellectually exciting environment in which to study.
Many of our film students have used the cinematic campus as a backdrop when shooting their films. However, they may not know that Lancaster was also chosen as the location for The History Man, a 1981 BBC TV drama satirising the campus radicalism and student politics associated with the ‘new universities’. While that series reflected the popular image of universities as hotbeds of protest, it misrepresented the extent to which the new universities were the result of a far more radical project: an attempt to rethink what a university looks like, and what it is for.
A 1970 report in Architectural Review observed of Lancaster’s brand-new campus that it was ‘entirely evocative of a close-knit European town, and suggests a desire to recreate outside Lancaster on the edge of the M6 the student community of Göttingen or an Italian hillside village’. Sadly, for the last few months the coronavirus pandemic has meant that we have been unable to enjoy this close-knit European town. Nevertheless, I hope that this year’s graduates carry with them throughout their lives the habits of critical questioning, intellectual ambition and creative thinking that Lancaster University and its innovative spatial environment was designed to foster.