Sights set ever lower

April 13, 2007

The Times Higher deserves congratulation for the reports in recent issues highlighting the appalling pressures confronting younger academic staff in particular.

Universities are subject to greater state control today than at any time in their his-tory. The chief organs of this are the self-regarding quality assurance and staff development movements, which divert funds needed for grass-roots teaching and research. Instead, these funds go towards the employment of largely sub-academic individuals whose jargon-ridden ideology and one-size-fits-all bureaucratic fatuity are the antithesis of a liberal-minded engagement with academic disciplines. At the same time, they encroach ever further on the time and territory of those academic staff who seek to maintain serious intellectual commitment, independence and integrity. Until quality assurance and staff development are consigned to oblivion, an academic career will have ever less appeal.

But as long as ambitious pro vice-chancellors see the possibility of quadrupling their salaries by lowering their sights to the level of the managerial vision demanded by the Government, the outlook remains bleak.

David A. Wells
Birkbeck, University of London

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