State should not call shots

April 23, 2009

I wonder whether Geoffrey Alderman (Letters, 16 April) missed my point. What I fear is the accreditation of courses by the state using academics as its instruments. That is what you get in many parts of Europe where, of course, academics are civil servants.

In April 1919, H.A.L. Fisher wrote a letter to the University of Oxford at the time when the principle of the block grant was being framed. "The State is, in my opinion, not competent to direct the work of education and disinterested research which is carried on by Universities," he wrote. We must not now, 90 years later, encourage politicians to think the state has acquired that competence.

G.R. Evans, University of Cambridge.

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