A Rose Is Ragged By Any Other Name…

After being prompted we have done much thinking and deliberating and working out the cost/benefits of intellectual property and officialdom, we decided to change the collective name from that of ‘Ragged University’ to The Ragged Project…Ragged-Online, Ragged Talks, Ragged Publishing, Ragged Music; you get the picture.


The name of the organisation is secondary, protecting the concept from being controlled is the important thing.  The concept is that everyone is a unique and distinct body of knowledge, accredited by their life experience and with a membership of one.


This concept fulfills the criteria of what a university technically is; it involves some accreditation and has a membership. Best of all, no one individual is allowed to control an idea. Where this idea leads us is the emerging story which is being written each day…


It, of course, must begin with the inspiration of the Ragged Schools and the collective efforts of philanthropists and entrepreneurs to transform the social landscape of Britain. These peoples felt, tried and succeeded in bringing about equilateral positive social change whilst improving the economy.


Thus the inspiration for the Ragged University project. We made our application to become an official charity and four and a half months later we receive a response saying we must refrain from using the word ‘university’ in our title pending processing of our application. Here is the crux of the letter:


To use this word for the purpose of carrying on business requires the prior approval of the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills. The requirements are set out in section 1194 of the Companies Act 2006 and in The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2009 (SI2009/2615)


This word can only be used in a name by a body that satisfies the Department’s separate criteria for university title; these relate to student numbers, good governance and taught Degree Awarding Powers. If the venture satisfies the criteria, BIS will be happy to support its use of the word in its name…I appreciate that the activities as described on your website may be charitable and that there is no attempt to misuse the word university….


This is of course important legislation and the the principle of legislation should be respected. There are various ways of looking at it but primarily the legislation we fall under is there to protect the public against misuse of words which carry certain weight and credentials. The idea of being able to buy a degree, for instance, is as corrupt as being able to buy a gold medal or the outcome of a football match.


So I called them up and spoke to a very nice John Sclater who apologised for the trouble and said that they felt that it was a ‘laudible project’ but nevertheless we must fill the criteria if we want o use the word ‘university’ in our title.


To this I informed him that we offer no accreditation, we have no student body and told him that our good governance is guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as laid out in our policy (which I forwarded to him). It seems that this is a bit of an unusual situation we are in and don’t exactly fit the boxes that have been laid out for us, thus a debate has started about the credible and correct use of the word in this context.


Much as the nice Mr Sclater and his department have been very helpful in guiding us through this process, I looked at the calendar and started to weigh things up as the letters of support started to roll in backing our application. My spidy-senses started to tingle…


I thought about all the time and energy which could and would go into winning the application and thought about what else could be done with the untold hours and efforts which must be summoned just to use the word in our name. After tussling with this I thought the opportunity cost was potentially draining to the project. What is is in a name I asked ? And what is our name ? The answer seemed very clear to me – Ragged !


We are about being dynamic and want to avoid drifting off into a quagmire of law, potential argumentation and semantic wrangling. I made the motion to rebrand as Ragged which does not exclude the fact that we can emphasize to people the soul of the endeavour – ‘Everybody is a Ragged University’


This is what it is all about – the project is not about bureaurcracy, legislation, semantics, or spending our collective efforts doing anything which is not progressive or productive for the community. The interpretation of words in context with the law can be very institutional, so let us move on and roll over the permafrost of indecision making decisive pragmatic moves to get Madras teaching into social spaces and realise each others projects.


The Ragged project lives, it does not dither…. so, our announcement is this – We are the Ragged project and we coordinate Ragged Talks, we are Ragged University and realise people’s work through Ragged activities.