Coalition of thinkers vow to fight marketisation of universities

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Some of Britain’s most high-profile public intellectuals have formed a coalition to defend universities against the erosion of academic freedom and the marketisation of higher education.


Some of Britain’s most high-profile public intellectuals have formed a coalition to defend universities against the erosion of academic freedom and the marketisation of higher education.

Lord Bragg, Alan Bennett, Sir David Attenborough and Richard Dawkins are among 65 writers, broadcasters and thinkers who have jointly founded the Council for the Defence of British Universities (CDBU), to be launched next week.

The group’s manifesto, also backed by former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Booker prize-winner Dame AS Byatt, playwright Michael Frayn and astronomer royal Lord Rees, claims the basis of a degree is under threat.

Writing in the Times Higher Education supplement, historian and former British Academy president Sir Keith Thomas said “the very purpose of the university” was being “grossly distorted by the attempt to create a market in higher education”.

Students, he wrote were “regarded as ‘consumers’ and encouraged to invest in the degree course they think most likely to enhance their earning prospects”.

Academics, he added, were now viewed as “producers, whose research is expected to focus on topics of commercial value and whose output is measured against a single scale and graded like sacks of wheat”.

The organisation is expected to campaign for the abolition of government funding bodies and propose a move to fully independent grant councils free from political interference.

 

Written By: Shiv Malik
continue to source article at guardian.co.uk

10 COMMENTS

  1. Regarding independent body vs government, I would support whatever had lower overhead costs. Why couldn’t civil servants maintain the disbursement of taxpayer dime. Secondly, university should be treated based on productive value. The product of academics, intellectual discovery and meaningful discussion, is a serious product whose value carries untold value. Is it unreasonable that those who contribute most meaningfully to such matter receive such matters. If the concern is having academics afraid to criticize government policy, then you have a valid concern. That said, I feel a separate body altogether divests more desperately needed capital. As for students approaching university as consumers. I think this is an splendid concept, they should pursue who provides them the best product with their money and they should choose matters that can help them enjoy a good standard of life. Why should thousands of people go into a field in which less then a hundred would receive a job. When plumbers are making more money then pHDs at a fraction of the cost, then more students should consider such trades to address this, and government subsidies favoring one over the other does gross injustice.

  2. I would argue that the New College of the Humanities, which Richard Dawkins is involved with as a partner, breaches the spirit of this group. It’s a private for-profit college that allows the rich and privileged to buy their way into an education.  It is the embodiment of the “marketisation” of universities.

  3. ‘Qui virtutes appetit labitur in
    imum
    Querens sapientiam irruit in limum
    Imitemur igitur hec dicentem mimum
    O cives, cives, querenda pecunia primum.

    Hec est, que in sinodis confidendo
    tonat.
    In electionibus prima grande sonat.
    Intronizat presules, dites
    impersonat
    Et genus et formam regina
    pecunia donat.’

    Walter of Chatillon on the monetarisation of higher education, late twelfth century

     

  4. Oh yes! Let the fight back commence.
     
    All this dreadful stuff started with Maragaret Hilda’s first administration in 1980.
     
    Selling off the family silver in the form of National assets, to the friends and funders of the Tory party, so that some of the ill gotten gains could slurp over the brim into the coffers of the Conservatives.
     
    Joseph Stiglitz argues that the present financial problems were set in train back then with the de-regulation of financial services called for by Nigel now Lord Lawson, and enacted by both Reagan and Thatcher.
     
    Now, the breath is taken away on hearing the said Lord calling for stricter regulations of the financial sector; this is also the chap who denies global warming, so watch this space for a volte-face in that department too; he wouldn’t want to be seen backing the wrong horse, so change horses. He knows that people have very short memories, and he can get away with it.   

    What a shower they are these “here today gone tomorrow” politicians.

  5.  

    zrdm1
    Regarding
    independent body vs government, I would support whatever had lower
    overhead costs.

    Short term cheapness has never been a good guide to quality.

    Why couldn’t civil servants maintain the disbursement of
    taxpayer dime. Secondly, university should be treated based on
    productive value.

    While some courses could be viewed as unproductive, for most, there is no way of predicting future value.

    The product of academics, intellectual discovery and
    meaningful discussion, is a serious product whose value carries untold
    value.

    Indeed it does, but neither government nor markets have shown they appreciate or value this by rewarding innovating researchers.

      As for students approaching university as consumers. I
    think this is an splendid concept, they should pursue who provides them
    the best product with their money and they should choose matters that
    can help them enjoy a good standard of life.

    There is no evidence that students are in a position to judge future job prospects or the quality of courses.  All the evidence indicates school leavers are inexperienced.

    Why should thousands of
    people go into a field in which less then a hundred would receive a job.

    Numbers of courses should certainly be planned with employment prospects in mind, but there are so many unpredictable variables which depend on political and commercial decisions.

    When plumbers are making more money then pHDs at a fraction of the
    cost, then more students should consider such trades to address this,
    and government subsidies favoring one over the other does gross
    injustice.

    Plumbers, bankers and salesmen are near the money.  In an unplanned unregulated dog-eat-dog market, the nearer you are to short term profit the better you are paid. 
    Scamsters and fraudsters often do very well!

    Inventors of great innovations are frequently ripped off by big companies when they need development budgets to bring products to market.

  6. Thank you, Cartomancer, for showing us this marvellous cynic of the medieval world and how closely that time and place resembles our own. I’m going to wallow in this with great Joy. (she’s a barmaid at the Dog and Duck).  

    Translation found here.  http://people.bu.edu/bobl/walt

    Plus there are a few more vicious, beautiful verses there. Of course not that many of you classics scholars need translation. But plebs like BenS and me…

    Qui virtutes appetit, labitur in imum,

    querens sapientiam irruit in limum;

    imitemur igitur hec dicentem mimum;

    o cives, cives, querenda pecunia primum.

    He who seeks out virtues slips into the depths, and he who seeks wisdom falls in slime. Therefore let us follow what the poet said: “O citizens, citizens, money is the first thing to be sought!” (Horace Ep. 1.1.53 and Walt 5.19.4)

    Hec est, que in sinodis confidendo tonat,

    in electionibus prima grande sonat;

    intronizat presules, dites impersonat:

    et genus et formam regina pecunia donat. 24

    Money it is that makes the best sound in synods and in elections; it places priests on the throne, bestows benefices on rich men, and queen money grants nobility and beauty. (Horace Ep.1.6.37)

  7. ‘The organisation is expected to campaign for the abolition of government funding bodies and propose a move to fully independent grant councils free from political interference.’
    About time.I am glad about this.Bring back the grants system.

    The New College of Humanities,[as mentioned previously in this thread],has full scholarships available and many exhibitions with annual fees less than UK universities.
    Also, not many universities have visiting lecturers of this calibre:Lawrence Krauss [in September], and Steven Pinker [in October], and another world famous academic in November.

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