The value of a university?

Another great piece from Times Higher Education, questioning whether forcing universities to seek funding, demonstrate impact, etc. has actually done the sector any favours?

All universities over the past 40 years have been forced to find money to supplement their public-funding shortfall; but it was not always thus. In 1919, the state expressed its financial interest in our having a national system of higher education, funded from general taxation. The University Grants Committee would distribute the funds to ensure our autonomy, explicitly precluding our acting as an arm of government; and our responsibilities were primarily to the demands of knowledge, engaged for the general public good. The recent Browne Review almost completely reverses this, with the explicit disavowal of state interest in our activity, and service for public good ceding place to our serving a political agenda.

By insistently asking the “value-for-money” question, governments since 1980 have in essence restricted university autonomy. They have explicitly required that we become an arm of government, while simultaneously cutting our funding from taxation. Always remember: the research assessment exercise/research excellence framework is a mechanism for legitimising the reduction of funding for research; “peer review” is a way of getting the sector to inflict the pain of cuts upon ourselves, government hereby absolving itself of responsibility. Who is at fault here?

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By admin

Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst  (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.

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