Integrity is not safe in hands of 'crass' government

May 30, 2003

Phil Baty reports on fierce debate at Natfhe's annual conference

The government will destroy the integrity of higher education if its white paper becomes law, Natfhe claimed at its annual conference.

Inflamed by education secretary Charles Clarke's recent remarks that "the unfettered pursuit of truth and excellence" did not in itself justify state funding for universities, Natfhe promised unceasing opposition to the "utilitarian" white paper. Seven motions attacking it were passed.

Mary Davis of Natfhe's inner-London region said: "Clarke and (higher education minister) Margaret Hodge want to create narrowly functional and utilitarian training-only institutions for the poor while sending the rich students to a British Ivy League. We must never, ever let the government get away with this."

A motion from Natfhe's southern region said: "This conference notes... the threat to the Socratic ideal of education presented in the white paper.

Conference declares its opposition to its alternative model of knowledge transfer, with its inference of mechanical teaching and passive learning".

A motion put by the southwest region said the union was "dismayed" by plans to concentrate research funding on an elite.

Mick Jardine of southern said: "The crassness of Clarke and Hodge is a disgrace."

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