NYRblog – Britain: The Disgrace of the Universities – The New York Review of Books
Very interesting post from the NYRB on the cutbacks in universities in the UK (and King’s College, London, in particular).
The cuts are not intended to stop with the first victims. All other members of the arts and humanities faculty at King’s are being forced to reapply for their jobs. When the evaluation is finished, around twenty-two of them will have been voted off the island. Even the official statements make clear that these faculty members will be let go not because they have ceased to do basic research or teach effectively, but because their fields aren’t fashionable and don’t spin money. When criticized, the principal of King’s, Rick Trainor, complained that foreign professors don’t appreciate the financial problems that he faces. He’s wrong. All of us face drastic new financial pressures
Are academic salaries really the main source of the pressure on the principal? Vague official documents couched in management jargon are hard to decode. The novelist and art historian Iain Pears notes that King’s has assembled in recent years an “executive team with all the managerial bling of a fully-fledged multi-national, complete with two executive officers and a Chief information officer.” The college spent £33.5 million on administrative costs in 2009, and is actively recruiting more senior managers now. These figures do not evince a passion for thrift. Moreover, the head of arts and humanities proposes to appoint several new members of staff even as others are dismissed. Management probably does want to save money—but it definitely wants to install its own priorities and its own people, regardless of the human and intellectual cost.
Universities become great by investing for the long term. You choose the best scholars and teachers you can and give them the resources and the time to think problems through. Sometimes a lecturer turns out to be Malcolm Bradbury’s fluent, shallow, vicious History Man; sometimes he or she turns out to be Michael Baxandall. No one knows quite why this happens. We do know, though, that turning the university into The Office will produce a lot more History Men than scholars such as Baxandall.
Read the whole post via the link at the top.