Transfer market troubles

August 7, 1998

There may indeed be "nothing wrong" with an academic transfer market as such, but there is a good deal wrong with the distorting effects which the RAE is having on research and the structure and objectives of university departments - processes in which the transfer market plays a crucial role.

It is astonishing that John Hudson justifies the "competition" exemplified by the transfer market in terms of a British attempt to stop a more international version of the market encouraging academics to emigrate to North America.

In many areas, research involves international collaboration, not competition. Are we not part of a global community? Much of the recent competition between British institutions has been artificially introduced, partly as a result of the perceived need to "target" scarce resources, but also as part of the ideology of Thatcherism. It is debatable whether in playing back governmental rhetoric, using phrases derived from television commercials (such as "world-class universities") and pretending to believe that universities are like national sports teams, we are serving the academic community's best interests. The sentimentality surrounding the concept of "the market place" is surely overdue for deconstruction.

Andrew Fleming Department of archaeology University of Wales Lampeter

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