Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Article excerpt

Baroness Bakewell is a Labour peer, journalist, novelist and president of Birkbeck, University of London. She made her name as a television presenter on arts and talk shows from the 1960s onwards, including Late Night Line-Up and Heart of the Matter. She is a supporter of Part-Time Matters, which champions the value of part-time study

Where were you born?

In Stockport, on the border of Cheshire and Lancashire.

How has this shaped you?

I have always felt myself to be a northerner, and identified with the problems that beset northern industrial communities. I took the name Baroness Bakewell of Stockport even though I have lived in London far longer. I feel I have inherited some of the grit and willpower of northern women.

What role did higher education play in your career?

I owe my entire career to the 1944 Education Act. I won a county scholarship and entrance to Newnham College, Cambridge, and my life was transformed. I met the brightest of my generation and shared with them a love of ideas and a curiosity about the world.

Should there be funding for older people who want to pursue an academic qualification?

I am absolutely convinced that older people should be supported by government grants in their wish to study. It helps keep your brain active, your social contacts alive and your spirits high. It will save money to keep older people fit and active.

Your predecessor as president of Birkbeck was Eric Hobsbawm, who taught you at Cambridge. Was that a surreal feeling?

It was a great honour: I had Eric as my supervisor when I read history at Cambridge and always had the highest regard for his scholarship, his outlook and his wonderful books.

You have criticised the lack of older women on UK television. Is this still a problem?

We shall find out! I sit on the Communications Committee of the House of Lords, and our current inquiry will be into women in news and current affairs broadcasting. Things are getting better all the time, but perhaps too slowly. I am lucky to be still working.

Tell us about someone you've always admired.

I watched Barack Obama make his way up the slippery political ladder: I read his books and saw that he is a thoughtful and fair-minded person. Unhappily, many of his initiatives have been stalled by Republican efforts. …

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