Lodging a complaint

July 2, 1999

For long enough, colleagues have complained of the "development of managerialism" in higher education. Now, it would appear, financial crises in the sector have prompted inspired innovative solutions to such difficulties through doing secret deals with the freemasons ("Sheffield in freemason pact", THES, June 25).

The story says that "Sheffield University (is) to set up a multimillion pound research centre to 'promote' the interests of freemasonry" and concludes by saying that "Sheffield University is one of several universities that has a freemasons' lodge named after it". Another is Durham University. Perhaps colleagues can complete the list?

Given the government's professed opposition to freemasonry this development is even more sobering. The problems of freemasonry as a society do not appear to have cut any ice with the managerial hierarchies of (at least some) of our old established universities. The avowed secretiveness and exclusivity of freemasonry fly in the face of the government's alleged agenda. But even if this were not the case, it is clear that as an institution freemasonry is anti-democratic: it undermines equal opportunities agendas and lacks accountability for decisions taken in secret and for influences that cannot be traced.

Given the Nolan report, it is astonishing that some individuals should be in positions of considerable influence for the direction of resources, for promotions and for appointments (perhaps even for securing their own jobs) and should be under no obligation to declare their associations with freemasonry.

I trust colleagues will carefully consider this development not in isolation but in terms of its wider implications.

Elizabeth Chell Alcan professor of management, University of Newcastle

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