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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

University scaremongering

The Guardian article from the Russell Group claims that "It has taken more than 800 years to create one of the world's greatest education systems and it looks like it will take just six months to bring it to its knees."

What utter poppycock.

The Universities have withstood the Black Death, the Reformation, civil war, the first and second Enlightenments, two world wars and globalisation - challenges far greater than a few piffling cuts in media studies at the ex-polytechnic of Leighton Buzzard. The Russell Group should ensure instead that resources are taken from the mediocre institutions and departments and directed at those that merit tax support.

Blair's absurd 50% commitment should be scrapped, and all the third-rate HFE institutions with it. Let's trash the dross, and return to academic excellence.


talwin said...

Maybe it's right that the universities have withstood the black death, the reformation, civil war, etc.

But will that fact make them immune from the corrosion of New Labour, 1997-2010?

BrianSJ said...

We need to restore two pillars of excellence, not just the one. The polys were set up to do practical sensible things, not be second-rate academe. They need to be set free as technical universities.

Demetrius said...

University education has in fact become a form of National Service in modern form. Moreover the employers have been gulled into thinking that a degree is necessary to anyone doing even routine clerical or administrative work. In the meantime we have all this talk about "skills shortages". Hasn't anyone put two and two together to work out that a lot of youngsters are being sent to the wrong places to do the wrong things in order to meet the requirements of an antique political dogma?

English Pensioner said...

Over recent years, the need for a University Education has become engrained in the mind of employers (maybe because many GCEs aren't worth the paper that they are written on).
I went to a good old technical college / College of Technology, on day release from my employer, and in due course managed to satisfy the Institution of Electrical Engineers that I should become a full member by virtue of my qualifications and experience.
In those days employers actively sought members of the professional institutions, rating their qualification as equal, if not better than a bachelor's degree.
If the government wants to overcome the skills shortage, this is the way to go; you discover in the course of your training whether you are practically or academically inclined and make your way as appropriate.
Basic education standards need to be raised so that school leavers can be useful to their employers from day one, and then perhaps the demand for a University Education will decline to sensible levels.

Budgie said...

No, it's not poppycock. The Universities cannot fight back because the politicians have all the power: both (taxpayers) money and, more importantly, law making power.

We, as members of society, are no longer allowed any significant discretion - there is always a rule - and most people, including Universities, try to be law abiding.

Anonymous said...

The Russell Group should ensure instead that resources are taken from the mediocre institutions and departments and directed at those that merit tax support.

And how do they ensure this, R? Seize the money at gunpoint? Execute a couple of hostages every hour until the money is given to them?

Talk sense. You are completely missing the point. This Labour Government will not cut funding to the ex-polys, because the ex-polys are machines churning out Labour voters; they also employ exclusively Labour voters - and you can stow the ridiculous canard that inevitably gets churned out by dolts that university lecturers are all Marxists.

Labour is destroying higher education in this country - by which I mean the Russell Group universities and the top-flight non-RG universities (such as Exeter) - and it is doing so to ensure that money goes pouring into the coffers of ex-polytechnics. Oxford University will lose jobs and grants, with a corresponding effect on teaching and research, but Oxford Brookes is in no such danger. Glasgow University may lose jobs and grants, but Glasgow Caledonian will not. 1960s vintage hellholes like Lancaster "University" (home of the Media Studies degree) will never go short of funding.

How you think that the universities can fix this situation, can fix this government's ideological war on education, on self-improvement, on opportunity and, indeed, on anything and everything that is not pushing Labour's partisan message, is beyond me. Moreover, by taking such a dismissive tone of this pending disaster, you play into the hands of Labour by giving them free rein to impose whatever wrecking anti-education policies they choose.

Universities are not the enemy and this is not a non-issue, R. Labour is the enemy. Labour has always been the enemy.

That said, you are right about the insanity of the 50% commitment - but consider why it was implemented: to hide Labour's inability to create the employment they promised and to create work for Labour's clients - that work mostly consisting of teaching sociology to the Labour voters and public sector "workers" of the future.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

The Universities (I don't count the ex-Poly's) are in danger because they took the State's money* and now don't want to do the State's bidding.

This is what has changed since the Black Death and all those other things; they've sold their souls for a mess of pottage.

Go private, NOW, you fools, and tell the State where to put its meddling.

Raedwald said...

Budgie & anon 17.17

Mea culpa. Mine was a knee-jerk reaction against group letters to the Guardian, I suspect, rather than a considered response. I take many of your points.

However, the RG are not blameless; they largely went along with HFE expansion and were happy to take the gold. Had they admitted at the time what all of them must have known - that the expansion would devalue academic standards and quality overall - then I'd have a little more sympathy.

Budgie said...

True, Raedwald, the RG are not blameless.

Also, in my (limited) experience a majority of university lecturers appear to be socialists of one sort or another and there seem to be very few Tories. I assume this is typical in all universities.

The universities were simply not intelligent enough to see Labour for what it is. Perhaps this was because their 'institutional' bias in favour of Labour overcame their discretion?

Thomas said...

Budgie: "in my (limited) experience a majority of university lecturers appear to be socialists"

I'm a right-wing academic mathematician, and certainly many of my colleagues are, in political terms, tedious Guardianistas. I'm not sure many are socialists, though, and there's an obvious visceral dislike of Labour these days.