One of the good things about recess is that it gives MPs a chance to catch up with people from some of the key local institutions/ stakeholders. (The best thing about recess is not having to flit from one city to another every three or four days; in fact I gave up my London flat at the start of recess and won't start looking for another until the new parliamentary session is upon us in October).
So this week for example I've met with the Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive of Bristol City Council, along with my fellow Bristol MPs Doug Naysmith and Dawn Primarolo, for a very useful chat about how we can work together in future to get the best deal for Bristol, for example in accessing new funding streams. We also talked buses! (You can't have a meeting with the Council without talking buses - the Chief Exec told us she'd met with Sir Moir Lockhead from First Group and Justin Davies of First Bus in Bristol recently, but the thrust of that conversation seemed to be that First Bus is a ringfenced operation and can't be subsidised by First Group's profits - and fares aren't going anywhere but up. But the fight goes on).
And today I had a really interesting meeting with the Vice Chancellor of UWE. Nothing to blog about, but a really useful overview of how the university's funding stacks up (e.g. the NHS is a big funder because UWE runs nursing courses), and how they make decisions on student numbers and which courses to offer (e.g. whether every uni should attempt to offer courses across the board, or accept that it's not worth running under-subscribed courses and stick to their areas of strength). UWE is big on the STEM subjects, teacher training, nursing (etc) and creative/media courses, so we had an interesting chat about the value of vocational courses. And UWE doesn't differentiate between so-called 'hard' and 'soft' A level subjects. After all, if you're doing a media studies degree, an A Level in Media Studies is a hell of a lot more useful than Classics. We also talked about student finance, of course, and the availability of bursaries. And we also talked buses! The Uni puts on its own free bus service for students, (free at point of use but paid for as part of the initial package) to ferry them between campuses and from the city centre - and this is because First Bus is basically too unreliable. Under the terms of their licence the buses have to be available to everyone, not just students.
Tomorrow I'm catching up with the head of the Bristol Credit Union for an update on all that's happening there.