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June 22, 2017

Sir David Bell’s opinion article “No matter who wins, higher education must change the record” (8 June) illustrates the qualities required to survive in Whitehall. But the advice is profoundly wrong about the approach that universities should adopt to current political circumstances. Currying political favour is hardly the best strategy for institutions aiming for a long-term future – politicians have a habit of changing places (and even the same politician may change his or her mind). The accumulation of evidence, thorough analysis and convincing argument are a more lasting basis for institutional success. If universities forget this, they lose the right to be taken seriously, or even to be heard.

Like most academics, I voted to remain in the European Union, and I think that leaving the EU is hugely damaging both to the UK and to Europe. Neither the Remain nor the Leave referendum campaign provided the evidence, analysis or argument required for an informed vote. But the justified weariness of electors with repetitive discussions of Brexit is not a good reason for adopting a different view – electorates change their minds, as the recent general election showed. Universities will outlast Theresa May, as they have outlasted the Department for Education and Skills, if some with more success than others.

Roderick Martin
St Cross Mede, Winchester

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