“An Assault on Academic Values” writes Thomas Docherty in the Chronicle of Higher Education

Thomas Docherty, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick and a member of the Steering Committee for the Council for the Defence of British Universities, has just written a piece in the US’s Chronicle of Higher Education about the current direction of UK educational policy. Following is an excerpt.

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CDBU Discussed In The House of Lords

Ten days ago, the House of Lords debated the question:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the impact of recent reforms of the higher education system on university education and research in the arts, humanities and fundamental science.


The Council for the Defence of British Universities (CDBU) was founded to address just these issues. We are pleased, therefore, that the CDBU featured in the debate.

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CDBU on the NUS student demonstrations: careless and radical policies are damaging universities and students

On Wednesday, 21 November, university students will assemble in London to protest against the current state of UK university policy. The primary concern expressed in this demonstration is outlined by the National Union of Students as follows:

Education is a good thing in and of itself – it enriches the lives of individuals and communities. But for most, education serves a simple purpose: to create opportunity. The government has placed this under attack from all fronts – by scrapping the EMA, slashing undergraduate teaching funding, increasing tuition fees, introducing draconian restrictions on international students, cutting funding for post-graduate students, hiking fees for adult learners looking to gain basic skills, causing funding chaos in the nations… It is clear that we can wait no longer. We demand a properly funded tertiary education system, accessible to all, in which all students are properly supported and encouraged – so that anyone with the ability and aspiration to study has the opportunity to do so.

The CDBU shares the concerns expressed by NUS with the careless formulation and hasty implementation of radical changes to UK university policy, and with the dangers they pose to universities and students.

The CDBU looks forward to working with students to promote a thorough reconsideration of these policies, including the ways in which universities are funded and governed.

Writing in a personal capacity, the chair of the CDBU’s Steering Committee, Professor Howard Hotson, outlined part of the basis of these concerns in an article which appeared in the Guardian yesterday.

CDBU Founding Member Lord Rees To Debate Universities Minister David Willetts

One of the Founding  Members of the Council for the Defense of British Universities (CDBU), the Astronomer Royal, Lord Rees, is to debate against David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science, on the subjectCan British Universities Keep Ahead in a Global Future?”.

The debate will take place on Wednesday, 12th December. It is organised by the think-tank Politeia, which is not affiliated with the CDBU.

Subjects to be debated by Lord Rees and David Willetts MP will be:

  • To what extent does official policy for funding research help or hinder our scientists and scholars to maintain the traditional lead of British universities in teaching and research?
  • How can greater diversity be introduced into the system?
  • What can we learn from successful overseas models, to ensure that university education remains available to a wide range of society?

Lord Rees explains in Politeia’s new study, University Diversity: Freedom, Excellence and Funding for a Global Future (published on Monday 22nd of October) why the current direction of policy should be modified in four important respects: greater freedom and autonomy is needed for research institutions, a greater diversity of institutions, courses and teaching methods should be promoted by the government, the funding regime must change, as it has left UK universities more burdened than competitors in the US and Europe, and finally, access arrangements must change.

Due to high demand, space at the debate will be limited. If you would like to attend, please email Secretary2@politeia.co.uk with your name, organisation, position and email address. Places will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Rt Hon David Willetts MP v. Professor Lord Rees Wednesday 12th December, 6.30-7.30pm Rugby Room, East India Club, 16 St James’s Square London SW1Y 4LH

The CDBU is launched at the British Academy

What is to be done? This was the leading question aired at the inaugural meeting of the Council for the Defence of British Universities (CDBU) at the British Academy on the evening of Tuesday, 13 November. Such was the consensus amongst Founding Members of the need for action that few words were wasted lamenting the current state of UK university policy. The question was how best to respond.

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