Locking horns with welfare foe

May 24, 1996

It has been a difficult two weeks for Brunel University. Not only has The THES given David Marsland more free publicity for his latest book on the faults of the welfare system (THES, May 17), but a former Brunel student launched an ill-informed attack on the quality of our teacher training courses in the Sunday Times last week (swiftly rebuffed by his classmates).

To cap it all, the university has announced its intention to award a number of honorary degrees to political figures, including Margaret Thatcher.

In my opinion, Marsland's views do not find favour with the majority of Brunel's academic staff, and I hope our teaching exposes students to more balanced views on social, economic and environmental policy. While most readers will have the common sense to see through his justification of a return to Thatcherite values, in his many media appearances and prolific writings he states his affiliation with Brunel and this could give the impression that others share his views. Marsland's centre for evaluation research gives consultancy advice on the dismantling of welfare systems and state institutions. I believe it is isolated both morally and intellectually. In addition, staff and students have never been consulted about Thatcher's award and, had they been, it is unlikely that a majority would have wished to go ahead without discussion.

The fatal flaws in Marsland's persistent support for the free market, and yet more consumerism and economic growth, are almost too obvious to rehearse. Needless to say they are painfully apparent to anybody who has travelled on our newly privatised rail network, breathed polluted air from the congested A4 outside our campus, been persuaded to smoke heavily by tobacco advertising, has worries about environmental quality, or who has worked in communities in sub-Saharan Africa newly exposed to the free market by World Bank structural adjustment. It is ironic that despite his hatred of state funding for education and health, Marsland himself seems to draw a state-funded university salary like the rest of us.

Simon Batterbury Lecturer in human geography Brunel University College

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