Letter: How the screw was put in scrutiny (3)

August 31, 2001

"When universities try to minimise outside scrutiny, you have to wonder what they are afraid of." Thus Liberal Democrat higher education spokesman David Rendel ("Randall's exit imperils light touch regime", THES , August 24), who has apparently forgotten what liberalism means.

What universities are afraid of is simple. It is that the bureaucratic Leviathan built up by control freaks such as the unlamented Randall, under phoney populist slogans of accountability, has become a monster destroying what it so intrusively scrutinises.

Liberals, of all people, should support minimising outside scrutiny. A free society is one in which we trust one another to do our jobs, not snoop. The impulse to surveillance that animates the Randalls of this world is at root no different from trash TV like Big Brother .

For centuries our universities ran themselves, gaining a global reputation. Along came a bunch of quacks (or QAAks), diagnosing an imaginary illness and prescribing their leeches as the sole cure.

But who will scrutinise the scrutineers? Randall's resignation, not a day too soon, suggests the patient is at last wising up. This cure was worse than any disease. Universities must seize back their freedom - and liberals should cheer.

Aidan Foster-Carter
University of Leeds..

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