COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF BRITISH UNIVERSITIES
The formation of the Council for the Defence of British Universities (CDBU) was announced in The Guardian on Thursday 8th November. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/nov/08/coalition-thinkers-fight-marketisation-universities
From the CDBU website:
Defending A World-Class System
Universities are amongst
Britain’s most successful
institutions. They currently occupy four of the top six places in the QS/USNWR
World University Rankings, three of the top ten of the Times
Higher World University Rankings, and two of the top ten in the Academic Ranking of World Universities,
with all the others going to US institutions.
They mark the ‘frontier of possibility’, according to a recent EC-sponsored study, for the efficient production of both high quality research and highly sought-after graduates:
* They produce more academic papers, citations, and highly cited papers per unit of research expenditure than any other country in the G8;
* They also rank amongst the best systems globally in performing all the other functions expected of a great university system aside from research
* They attract more international students than any university system but the
and a higher proportion of international students than any other system but Australia
Yet the character of
universities is being radically altered. Britain
universities have been bound by increasingly
restrictive management practices, loaded with endlessly augmented
administrative burdens, and stretched virtually
to breaking point. Now, in the two years since the publication of the Browne
radical reform of the higher education system’has begun, designed to change
its character fundamentally, permanently, and virtually overnight.
Although these radical changes were planned in detail before the last election, no democratic mandate for them was ever sought. Although opposed by student protests, devastated by scholarly criticism, and unsupported by even the most elementary analysis of the empirical evidence, these changes are being driven forward relentlessly without benefit of Parliamentary debate or public scrutiny.
Why has opposition to these changes proved so ineffective?
The basic answer is surprisingly simple. In the protracted recession of a knowledge economy, where knowledge is money and growth is elusive, powerful forces are bending the university to serve short-term, primarily pragmatic, and narrowly commercial ends. And no equal and opposite forces are organised to resist them.
The UK higher education sector is crowded with bodies representing the interests of one academic group or another: The Russell Group, Universities UK, Million+, The 1994 Group, University Alliance, the UCU, and the NUS, to name a few.
But no organisation exists to defend academic values and the institutional arrangements best suited to fostering them.
The problem is not that academic values are obsolete: in an increasingly complex world, they are as valid and important as ever. But after decades of subordinating them to other priorities, it can no longer be taken for granted that every educated person understands the enormous value to society as a whole of maintaining places devoted primarily to the pursuit of understanding and to the transmission of that pursuit to the next generation.
The CDBU has been established to fill this void.
Academic values need fresh reformulation and skilful advocacy by influential figures both in and outside the academic world. Scores of these figures have now come together to form the nucleus of the Council for the Defence of British Universities.
See the CDBU website at: http://www.cdbu.org.uk
Posted here by Glenn Rikowski
All that is Solid for Glenn Rikowski: http://rikowski.wordpress.com
The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk
Online Publications at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=pub&sub=Online%20Publications%20Glenn%20Rikowski
Glenn Rikowski’s paper on higher education, Life in the Higher Sausage Factory:
Rikowski, G. (2012) Life in the Higher Sausage Factory, Guest Lecture to the Teacher Education Research Group, The Cass School of Education and Communities, University of East London, 22nd March, online at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=articles&sub=Life%20in%20the%20Higher%20Sausage%20Factory.