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By Messianic Trees
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Long, but interesting article by Steffan Collini about the state of UK universities:
Future historians, pondering changes in British society from the 1980s onwards, will struggle to account for the following curious fact. Although British business enterprises have an extremely mixed record (frequently posting gigantic losses, mostly failing to match overseas competitors, scarcely benefiting the weaker groups in society), and although such arm's length public institutions as museums and galleries, the BBC and the universities have by and large a very good record (universally acknowledged creativity, streets ahead of most of their international peers, positive forces for human development and social cohesion), nonetheless over the past three decades politicians have repeatedly attempted to force the second set of institutions to change so that they more closely resemble the first. Some of those historians may even wonder why at the time there was so little concerted protest at this deeply implausible programme. But they will at least record that, alongside its many other achievements, the coalition government took the decisive steps in helping to turn some first-rate universities into third-rate companies. If you still think the time for criticism is over, perhaps you'd better think again.
By mattomac
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Interesting read, does seem to be a split in the North/South in terms of quality in recent THE tables to come out, London seems to be able to rely on several good institutions while Manchester another excellent university is pretty much alone bar Liverpool.

I work in Higher Education so nice to see this thread by the way.
By new puritan
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It's quite a few years old now but this Collini article is still worth reading.
It’s true that it isn’t easy to characterise what universities are and what they now do, and so not easy to lay down a ‘vision’ of what they might do in the future. That is partly because of the intrinsic difficulty of talking about intellectual activity in terms that are both general and useful, partly because the ‘higher education sector’ embraces a diverse range of institutions each of which is something of a palimpsest of successive social and educational ideals; but above all it is because the populist language that dominates so much discussion in contemporary market democracies ” is not well adapted to justifying public expenditure in other than economic or utilitarian terms, and it is principally as a form of expenditure – a problematic or resented one – that universities now attract political and media attention.

The result is that even, or perhaps especially, within universities, opinion tends to congregate around two almost equally unappealing extremes. On the one hand, there is the mournful idiom of cultural declinism: ‘standards’ are falling, ‘philistinism’ is rampant, ‘autonomy’ has been lost, and even the barbarians are going to the dogs. And on the other, there is the upbeat idiom of brave new worldism: ‘challenges’ and ‘opportunities’ abound, ‘partnerships with industry’ beckon, ‘accountability’ rules, and we’re all ‘investing in the future’ like billy-oh. As with larger questions of social and cultural change, it can be difficult to escape the magnetic pull of these extremes, difficult to get the measure of the changes that have been taking place without either falling into the absurdity of suggesting that everything would be all right if we could just go back to universities as they were c.1953, or the equal absurdity of proposing that more ruthless cost-cutting and more aggressive marketing could soon have HiEdbizUK plc showing healthy profits for shareholders." onclick=";return false;
By Messianic Trees
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mattomac wrote:The McGettigan Book is really good by the way if you are interested in Higher education
Thanks. I'll check it out.

In the meantime, here's some nonsense from Willetts (categorically rubbished in the comments):

Universities putting research before teaching, says minister
By Messianic Trees
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Is Britain closing its doors to overseas academics?
When organisers of a workshop held earlier this month at All Souls College, Oxford, invited an eminent Algerian academic to be a keynote speaker, they assumed his visa would be a mere formality. Sid-Ahmed Kerzabi has had a long and distinguished career as a historian, film-maker and specialist in cultural heritage, and is a former director of both the Tassili National Park, a world heritage site in the Sahara, and of the Bardo Museum in Algiers. He is also connected to the Algerian ministry of culture.

But despite repeated visits to the British consulate in Algeria, Kerzabi was refused a visa. His talk had to be read out in Oxford by another delegate. There was no way to recoup his £400 airfare, which had been bought via an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant.

And the grounds for refusing him a visa? There was "insufficient proof that he was not planning to settle in Britain". Sid-Ahmed Kerzabi is 81 years old.
By cycloon
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I read the Collini piece (well, part of it, was in a rush) in the LRB the other day: seemed interesting. I work in HE (well, research, no 'E' at the moment, but I hope so one day) and all seems well in Oxford. But then it's Oxford, and I'm never sure how other universities are doing.

One thing you do notice in Oxford, and I assume in Cambridge and London also, is a multitude of tutorial colleges that ape the university's semantics, rake in foreign students and A level drop outs, and do languages or are effectively treadmills for Oxbridge applications - they must work, but I can't see how given the competition. I don't think they offer HE courses as such for the most part, but some certainly do, and it seems a bit devious.
By Messianic Trees
Membership Days Posts
Missed this when it was initially published in the Mail last week:

The History Girls: meet the women building a bright future from the past

Read more: ... z2kKf83moD" onclick=";return false;

Being dated has never been so now. With their unique perspectives, these historians have rescued studying the past from the clutches of fusty academia and changed our view of yesteryear for ever.
Good commentary here and here.
By new puritan
Membership Days Posts
Timbo wrote:Yeah, fuck Mary Beard and Bettany Hughes. They signed their own death-warrants when they refused to wear block-colour frocks and do ridiculous poses.
And Sheila Rowbotham, and Dorothy Thompson, etc etc.
By Andy McDandy
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I'm still contemplating pillow talk with Tony Robinson.

But seriously, I'm just sick of this assumption that everything has to be targeted, made accessible, that we're not able to absorb anything unless it's spoonfed and made 'relevant'. Living (or in this case unliving) soap opera all over again.
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