Alf, Val and Don today

Fifty years on - memories of Exeter

Over the summer we shared a clip from Westward TV’s series ‘The Privileged?’ filmed at the University of Exeter in the late sixties.

The episode, ‘The Loose Change’ looked at university funding and grants during a time of expansion and interviewed a number of students on or around campus.

Two of those interviewed in the film were Val Manning neé Adamson (Physics, 1967) and Don Clark (PGCE, 1967), who were filmed shopping and then back at the house where their respective flats were. They have remained friends ever since and we were delighted to be able to catch-up with them about their memories of Exeter.

Val says: “Exeter will always be special to me not least because it was there that I met my husband Alf - we have now been married for forty eight years! He was a Classics student but we did not start going out together until my final year which was his education year. We got to know each other because we lived in the same student house, me in the upstairs flat with my girlfriends and him in the ground floor flat with his friends. Don had been a school friend of Alf's who came to Exeter to do his PGCE and that is how we also became friends.

“I did not find it difficult to adjust to being at university as I had spent the previous two summer holidays living in London as a member of the National Youth Theatre. I loved being a student at Exeter from the first day! It was such a beautiful campus and town. It was much smaller then and consequently one soon felt part of the university and the student body. Devonshire House was an excellent social centre. I have particularly happy memories of the weekend dances with great groups like the Who, the Kinks and Manfred Man. These were definitely a highlight for me.”

Don adds: “I did my degree at Leeds University then went to Exeter for my one year PGCE so moving away from home was not new for a post grad student. Two of my school friends were there and we shared a flat: Alf did his degree at the same time as me and he too was doing a PGCE, the other, Barrie, had delayed his degree for a year and was in his final year when we were doing the PGCE. I did enjoy my time at Exeter, partly because there was far less stress than studying for a degree and also I had some ready-made friends there through Alf and Barrie. I thought the city was very attractive, much smaller than Leeds where I took my degree, and also than Liverpool where I lived.”

Following university both Val and Don left Exeter to pursue careers in teaching, a profession they remained in until they retired.

Val says: “From Exeter I went back home to do an Education year in Newcastle at the university there. Despite it being my home town I never felt as much part of the university which was so much bigger than Exeter and very male dominated. There was even a "men only" bar for a short while in my first term there.”

Val and Alf married after she had completed her teaching training and remained in touch with Don, regularly meeting up with him and his wife, as well as other friends from Exeter.

“I know I left Exeter having enjoyed the whole experience.” says Don. “It seemed to me at the time a good preparation for life as a teacher, particularly the term on teaching practice which I spent in Cornwall.

“I'm not sure how university life compares now. Probably finance is a big difference. We had grants in those days, and didn't have to worry about paying them back. Not sure I would like the burden of many thousand pounds owing at the end of a degree course.”

Val adds: “I feel very privileged to have been a student in the Sixties. I don't know if I would have gone to university had I had to saddle myself with debt.

“For me being a student at Exeter was one of the most important times of my life. It shaped what I became as a person and in my career and I am extremely grateful that I was given that opportunity to develop.”

Date: 12 September 2017

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