Not quite the apocalypse?

Yesterday’s Guardian newspaper carried an interesting article by Universities UK president, Professor Steve Smith. In this he argued that the new post-Browne funding model for English universities would not actually involve a public funding reduction, and that it was untrue that the government would cease to fund the humanities and social sciences. In both cases his point was that while the funding model would change, public money would continue to flow, but just through different channels (mainly through students in receipt of loans and grants).

Leaving aside the slightly irritating tendency for Universities UK to present issues these days as if there were no UK higher education outside of England there are some interesting points in Steve Smith’s analysis – though he will also play into the hands of some critics with his strong references to the introduction of ‘market incentives into the system’. But in every part of the UK the question remains of how an increasingly obvious inability of the taxpayer to meet the cost of higher education can be overcome, and whether the method chosen for England is viable.

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8 Comments on “Not quite the apocalypse?”

  1. anna notaro Says:

    *there are some interesting points in Steve Smith’s analysis – though he will also play into the hands of some critics with his strong references to the introduction of ‘market incentives into the system’.*

    Well, Ferdinand the use of the ‘strong references’ to market ideology won’t come as a surprise to a lot of academics, particularly in the Humanities – as I recall in previous comments you were asking where was the evidence for the marketization/commodification of education that its critics were talking about, I trust that the ‘evidence’ is crystal clear now. Actually one should quote the paragraph in full to better appreciate the sense of Smith’s thought, here it is:

    *That is a truly radical shift that is driven by a clear political aim: to introduce more market incentives into the system. Those market drivers mean that universities have to be clear that we offer a high-quality product, and we have to be clear that we are providing skills and experiences that will directly benefit the student.*

    He talks of ‘a radical shift’, driven by a ‘political aim’ an ‘ideology’ might be a better term where universities provide ‘skills’ and ‘experiences’, ‘products’ this might not be the apocalypse in financial terms but it certainly has all the making of an apocalyptic upheaval in a more destructive sense with regards to the values and priciples academia has always held dear…suddenly the prospect of early retirement acquires some appeal😦


    • Anna, I don’t actually think that what Steve Smith is saying represents an ideological, or even a descriptive, position. What I was criticising was his use of terminology rather than his ideology: I’m not convinced there is any, his language notwithstanding.

      • anna notaro Says:

        It was clear that you were criticing the terminology, however I don’t think one can dismiss such an important aspect (the choice of terminology) as not indicative of the kind of thought which underpins it… in other words this is not just a problem of communication, it’s more substantial than that..

    • Al Says:

      How do Universities provide skills???

      • anna notaro Says:

        Good question Al, I have been filling in forms for new modules with long lists of ‘skills’ such modules provide students with the whole day, the silliness of the exercise might explain my desire for early retirement😦

        • Al Says:

          There is a line in the sand, where it is is open to argument/negotiation, between the investment from the Uni and the investment from the student.
          I would argue that it is the investment from the student that will determine whether skill ability will manifest?


  2. I’ve just discovered a rather strange reference to this blog post on another website, and the opening passage is reproduced there as follows:

    ‘Yesterday’s Guardian journal carried an engaging essay by Universities UK president, Professor Steve Smith. In this he argued that a new post-Browne appropriation indication for English universities would not indeed engage a open appropriation rebate …’

    The product of machine translation forward and backwards?


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