Medievalism and Mr Clarke 1

May 16, 2003

Your report "Clarke lays into useless history" ( THES, May 9) puts forward a distorted picture of my views. I would like to put my views on the record.

I am not in any way opposed to medieval studies (or, for that matter, Latin). Quite the contrary, I positively support the spread and development of classical and medieval studies. On both this occasion and earlier in the year when I spoke about classics, my comments were taken out of context and developed into a sensationalist story claiming that I am in some way anti-academia or learning.

What I have said on a number of occasions, including at Worcester, is that the "medieval concept" of the university as a community of scholars is only a very limited justification for the state to fund the apparatus of universities. It is the wider social and economic role of universities that justifies more significant state financial support.

This is clearly a central issue for us to debate. It is why I invited vice-chancellors to a seminar with the Confederation of British Industry and Patricia Hewitt, the secretary of state for trade and industry. We started an excellent discussion about how universities can link in better with their local economies.

So my use of the word "medieval" in this context has obviously been somehow transformed into a criticism of the study of medievalism in all its forms, which is not at all what I think and is extremely unfair.

Charles Clarke
Secretary of state for education

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