20 years ago

April 17, 2008

Universities must take responsibility for firing academics who are poor teachers, Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, chairman of the University Grants Committee, has warned. Sir Peter said good quality teaching was even more important than good research, but it must be tackled by individual institutions since it could not be assessed centrally. Academics who were not good teachers and refused to improve had to be "got rid of". Tenure was no obstacle, since good cause for dismissal invariably included failure to carry out the duties of one's office. But it was a desperately slow process that took up the time of senior officers, Sir Peter said, and staff were removed only when they were "a positive nuisance as well as a professional disaster".

"Philosophy in Britain is in disarray in two ways. First the discipline is ineptly struggling to respond to the fact that, with the ever-worsening financial climate in British higher education, it has become an endangered species. Second, in addition to this familiar external threat, there are also signs of a growing intellectual dissension emerging in our philosophical tradition. Philosophy is not only beleaguered from without, it is also sick within. We think that these two factors are joint effects of a single cause: the malign but covert influence of Descartes." (Opinion by David Bakhurst and Jonathan Dancy.)

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