Letter: Learning or luxury at County Hall

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The Independent Online
Sir: May I add my thanks to you for the support of the LSE's bid for County Hall (leading article, 6 August)? One has an uneasy feeling that the country's sense of priorities in the use of public buildings must have seriously deteriorated if the opportunity is missed to house in County Hall one of the country's most notable institutions.

Indeed, the London School of Economics and Political Science should be regarded as one of the glories of British academic life. It covers not only economics but also the social aspects of many other studies, including law, history, geography, languages, anthropology, demography, sociology, psychology, social administration, accounting and finance, industrial relations, international relations, politics, mathematics and statistics, and philosophy.

In all these fields, it has included leading scholars and has produced important and original work. I was myself Professor of Economics at the LSE from 1947 to 1957. Of the persons who were my teaching colleagues in this department during those 10 years, four subsequently were awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for work, much or all of which was done at the LSE. I take economics only as an example. Equally distinguished colleagues did equally distinguished work in all the other main departments of the school; and one of the great merits of the school for me was the opportunity it provided for leading scholars in all the various related social studies to influence each other by living and working together.

The school is also a great teaching institution at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. It has an exceptionally high population of students at both levels from overseas and, indeed, has quite properly earned a high international reputation with leading citizens in many countries who have spent years studying there.

The school is closely associated with the British Library of Political and Economic Science, which, while it serves the school for its working library, is in fact the principal national library for the social studies, being one of the world's most important and renowned libraries in its field.

At the present time, these two closely integrated institutions are housed in cramped quarters in inadequate and disjointed buildings at the bottom of Kingsway. It is most important that they should be adequately housed together, without being removed from a central position near Whitehall, Westminster, the Law Courts, Fleet Street and the City, where daily contacts and consultations with those engaged in the same problems outside the academic world can be continued.

The County Hall is just such a place, which, by housing the school and the British Library, could itself become renowned as a notable addition to our great academic structures, instead of a historically preserved shell for yet another luxury hotel.

Yours faithfully,

J. E. MEADE

Christ's College

Cambridge

11 August

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