When John Henry Newman wrote in 1850, a university was an elite of scholars freely assembled to undertake teaching and scholarship, with perhaps some reference to crown and church for patronage. I think Conrad Russell had that image in mind last week ("Universities drowning under dual tidal waves", THES , November 23).
Universities in 2001, however, are big players in a mass further and higher education system. Academics teach, research, consult, counsel, transfer knowledge, lead professional bodies, engage in entrepreneurship and help drive the local economy. Tens of thousands of academics are involved, with multiple sources of funding, not just the Treasury.
Both models of higher education are internally consistent, but elements are not interchangeable. The UK cannot afford the volume of the latter with the style of the former, which would exclude me as an engineer.
Michael J. Kelly
Director, Centre for Solid State Electronics
University of Surrey