Universities as factories

by Dorothy Bishop and Rowan Tomlinson

In a lecture delivered at the University of West London on 7th July, Professor Roger Brown drew some important lessons for Higher Education from an analysis of economic inequality.

First, he established that economic inequality was greater in the US and UK than in many other OECD countries, and was continuing to rise. The evidence was summarised in Figure 1, using the Gini coefficient (which ranges from 1 – if all the income from a country went to one person – to zero – if everyone got the same). figure Gini coefficient (2)He went on to consider a range of reasons that have been proposed to explain rising inequality: these included globalisation leading to an increased labour pool, technological change reducing demand for less skilled workers, and the shift of economies from manufacturing to services, especially financial services. In addition, there are economic pressures that lead to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer – to some extent these are inherent in capitalism. Brown suggests that all these factors have played a part in determining inequality in major Western countries. There is, though, variation in economic inequality, and, strikingly, the highest level of inequality is found in those countries that have actively pursued neoliberal policies. These countries have prioritised freer markets, smaller government and lower taxes, and adopted macroeconomic policies that have reduced regulation and allowed international commercial banking to play a larger role in global finance.

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Radical changes on an international scale: On the parallel ‘reforms’ of British and Czech university systems

The Rector of the Charles University in Prague, Professor Václav Hampl, with copies of the newly published Czech translation of In Defence of Public Higher Education. To his left, Dr Jiří Beneš, Vice-Director of the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and a member of the Academy’s Council. Photo: Stanislava Kyselová, Akademický bulletin.

On 27 November 2012 Professor Howard Hotson was invited by the Institute of Philosophy to speak at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic on the ‘radical shake-up’ of the UK university system. His lecture attempted briefly to put the ongoing marketisation of English higher education in international perspective and to use it as a means of understanding the very similar ‘reforms’ being simultaneously introduced elsewhere.

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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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CDBU Launch Meeting at the British Academy

BY Gordon Campbell (University of leicester)

CDBU will be formally launched at an Inaugural Meeting at the British Academy next Tuesday, 13 November. Drawing up the list of those invited to attend this initial meeting has not been easy: the space available to us is small, but the number of academics concerned about the state of our universities is huge, and room must also be found for the national and international journalists who will also be joining us, not to mention many of our Founding Members.

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