Letter: Flak for all hacks (1)

December 15, 2000

David Palfreyman's points to a problem with "well-meaning amateur dons as part-time committee hacks" (Letters, THES, December 8). That problem is far worse in Cambridge, and it concerns me that Oxford is getting flak that ought to be coming Cambridge's way, too. Oxford has at least really been trying.

Both universities have the privilege of being run by their academic staff, which those elsewhere should envy. No NHS-style manager domination for us. We have administrators who advise and cannot give orders.

But scholars who would hate to be called arrogant and ignorant with reference to their research or teaching resist the simple requirement that they need to undertake training to do a professional job on those committees. Then they could work with administrators intelligently instead of fighting like children among themselves.

They also find it difficult to see beyond a small patch of territory that they have a personal interest in defending.

Accountability has to begin to go further than "trading" favours with fellow members of committees.

Unless the necessary culture change takes place quickly, the accumulating evidence of incompetence, delay and unfairness to staff and students is going to mount so high that there will be public discrediting of two ancient universities. They have much to lose.

G. R. Evans

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