Steps have been taken to “turn first-rate universities into third-rate companies"by Naomi Goulder / May 18, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Speaking of Universities by Stefan Collini (Verso, £16.99)
Students have become weapons in the government’s latest assault on higher education. No longer are they partners in the common pursuit of knowledge and understanding; they are now cast as petulant customers who demand—not challenging ideas or debate—but short-term satisfaction.
In this provocative collection of essays, historian and critic Stefan Collini charts how successive governments have used regulatory powers to entrench ways of speaking that distort higher education.
Blind to the value of developing citizens’ cognitive and creative capacities, Collini argues, the government now only recognises the value of consumer satisfaction and economic growth. If an institution feels like a “spa resort,” he writes sardonically, and its graduates make “a quick killing in currency trading,” it is graded as “excellent.” But if it resists such changes, it supposedly lacks “quality,” so should not survive. Steps have been taken to “turn first-rate universities into third-rate companies.”
Much of the material here has been previously published: it is repetitive and many details pre-date the government’s latest marketising Higher Education Bill. Does that matter? Not much: Collini’s arguments still have force. But he is wrong to cast the new breed of independent HE institutions as antagonists. New institutions and old are subject to the government’s perverse combination of private funding and narrow regulation: they should be allies. Collini wants us to recognise the value of cooperative enquiry and creativity—and an HE system in wh…