Free thinkers will not apply

July 28, 2011

The president of the British Academy astutely notes ("Reforms pose danger, but arts and humanities should prosper", 23 July) that the bulk of the White Paper is an attempt to address "issues" arising from radical funding changes already being implemented. He also points out one that is not getting the attention it deserves - the risk to "the future renewal of the academic profession", particularly new UK entrants.

It is not difficult to make a list of disincentives: the cost of doing a higher degree on top of existing student debt; uncertain job security; diminished pension entitlement. But the most important factor rarely gets a mention. The present generation of academics entered the profession in the confidence that they would be able to teach and do research with reference to the demands of scholarship. They were on the whole inwardly motivated people. The emergence of "research strategies" and employer-led course requirements has been ending that expectation as employers seek to impose external direction.

This could be the killer. Original minds will not rush to enter such intellectual enslavement.

G.R. Evans, Emeritus professor of medieval theology and intellectual history, University of Cambridge

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