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In conversation with Alan Lowdon

In his latest blog post, Alan Lowdon, Chair of our Innovation Board discusses championing the North East as a place to live, study and work.

In January of this year, I had the privilege of visiting Laude College near (snowy) Marbella, Spain. The college is an international school spanning years 6 to 13. The trip was organised by Mike Burrett, Vice-chairman of the Durham University Energy Institute (DEI) Advisory Board and formed part of their outreach activities. Mike and his family live in the vicinity of the college. The trip was fully supported by the international office of Durham University. Accompanying us on the trip was second year Durham MEng student, Kitty Stacpool.

Our aim was to raise awareness of the UK university system, its benefits, its draw-backs and, in particular, to promote Durham University as a place to consider when making the important choice of where to study. Not only did we fly the flag for Durham, we championed the cause for the North East of England as a fantastic place to live, study and work.

The main event saw us present to some 200 students assembled in the sports hall, covering years 9 to 13. Kitty stole the show with her anecdotes about student life – lectures, college life, sports, societies and socialising. She was also able to impart a serious amount of information about the science and engineering courses on offer and answer the question as to how fast the university wifi was! Mike and me provided the ‘seasoned input’ and described the importance of degrees and apprenticeships to future career advancement. The whole approach was seen as highly innovative by the school staff as it had never been tried before; the student response was superb. This was emphasised when we circulated sheets of paper during the Q&A session in order to give everyone – the confident and the shy – the opportunity to pose their questions. Over 90 were received! Answers to these have been formulated and returned to the school to put on display so the students can see the answers to the questions they posed.

The return leg is scheduled for the summer when 20 or so students from Laude will make the trip to the North East to see first-hand the facilities at Durham University and the wider North East. Demand is set to outstrip supply! There’s nothing better than experiencing the real thing!

It’s very rewarding to ‘give back’ to the system which has served us so well in our careers. Witnessing the enthusiasm in the eyes and voices of the Laude College students made the whole thing worthwhile, the snow in Marbella apart!