Be so bold

September 28, 2017

The response suggested by Sir Anton Muscatelli, the chair of the Russell Group, to the criticism buffeting UK universities is both dispiriting and lacking in boldness (“Ignore the cacophony of criticism, but speak up on why we matter”, Opinion, 21 September). It is dispiriting because it paints a portrait of universities that not many staff will recognise, with its emphasis on higher education’s impact on the economy and society. It lacks boldness because it suggests parroting the neoliberal consensus, according to which all things must be measured by cost-effectiveness and socio-economic factors.

A more groundbreaking and encouraging approach (particularly for those who entered the profession hoping to expand students’ minds and enrich their understanding) would be to foreground universities’ intrinsic cultural worth and contribution. Rather than underlining job creation, ties to business and industry, and how we provide value for money, what about unapologetically making the argument that universities foster critical thinking, cultural diversity, and an international outlook, by providing a deeper understanding of the arts, history and cultural heritage and giving serious attention to other languages and their related cultures?

On these points we have the opportunity to change the terms of public discourse rather than simply bowing to its assumptions. The Remain campaign failed partly because its arguments were almost exclusively about economic benefits. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.

David Lines
Reader in Italian studies
University of Warwick

Send to

Letters should be sent to:
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday.
View terms and conditions.

Please login or register to read this article

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments