Unchain yourselves

November 17, 2006

It is sad that it takes two officially retired but active academics, Ian McNair and Jennifer Bone, to say in public what is known to all in academia - higher education is "selling its soul" ("Academia has sold out, 72% believe", October ).

There are many purchasers: the Government, whose sole interest is the immediate economic benefit; employers, who feather their nests rather than aid higher education; senior academic administrators, who put the research assessment exercise or "bums on seats" atop their agenda; the University and College Union, which fights for salaries but rarely for academic freedom and excellence; and academics, who are cowed into submission.

So academics unite: you have nothing to lose but your (at least in part) self-imposed chains! Boris Johnson has said: "I'm not convinced that you can measure the value of higher education. It is a good in itself, an end in itself."

I am convinced that you cannot.

Lewis Elton
Visiting professor Manchester University

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