Letter: Too busy obeying to challenge (3)

October 12, 2001

Frank Furedi raises a number of salient issues concerning the state of the British university, in particular the decline of public intellectuals and the rise of the narrowly focused academic "expert". There are three key problems that help explain this malaise.

The British university has experienced commodification of knowledge - eg, the acceptance of money from a tobacco company to finance medical research, the relabelling of students as customers and the prioritisation of activities that yield monetary input.

There has been a bureaucratisation of university life, which has supported the monetisation of intellectual endeavour and introduced measures to discipline, differentiate and divide labour.

A culture of obedience has evolved, and discontent is not always collectively channelled.

If we do not resist these processes, for how long will the university remain a place for independent thought and a critique of power?

Ireturned to Britain after 20 years in a Dutch university, largely to reconnect with a community of critical academics. I have not been disappointed, but now more than ever is a time to contest the regime of cash and conformity.

David Slater
Loughborough University

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