I have now read for the second time Marina Warner’s essay published by the London Review of Books. You can read it here.
Another UK University, this time in Essex, is in disgrace.
Marina exposes beautifully the march of the morons against human culture, science, letters, civilisation. Endless thanks to the author, who is present and an advocate of the University of Essex she joined:
“Essex was organised co-operatively between students and teachers… English literature would be read alongside Russian and American, North and South, all in their original languages… [Albert Sloman, the first vice-chancellor] insisted on the importance and independence of academia: ‘A professor can speak out on national issues of science and scholarship,’ Sloman said, ‘as a scientist in a government research centre cannot. So universities must go on being places of scholarly investigation.’”
The drive to make money and command other people’s lives is a cancer growing within universities. Education is put aside; freedom to research and expressions of dissent are enemies of the corporation, of the brand. An intolerate, ruthless environment is being built on terror, the fear of losing one’s position if one holds to collegiality. If you make the mistake to believe that you belong to a College.
“A Tariff of Expectations would be imposed across the university, with 17 targets to be met, and success in doing so assessed twice a year. I received mine from the executive dean for humanities. (I met her only once. She was appointed last year, a young lawyer specialising in housing. When I tried to talk to her about the history of the university, its hopes, its ‘radical innovation’, she didn’t want to know. I told her why I admired the place, why I felt in tune with Essex and its founding ideas. ‘That is all changing now,’ she said quickly. ‘That is over.’) My ‘workload allocation’, which she would ‘instruct’ my head of department to implement, was impossible to reconcile with the commitments which I had been encouraged – urged – to accept… Eventually, after a protracted rigmarole, I resigned. I felt I had been pushed. ”
Was there another way to oppose these changes? I think Marina suggests action from within and before it is too late and no one able to stand up has survived the purge.
“I am told that the tick of the deathwatch beetle is heard only when it is too late. I should have heard the tick tick ticking when… I heard the tick again when… I heard it once more when… (These Nobel Prize winners – they don’t earn their keep) And I heard it when… I could go on, about the cases of colleagues and their experience of managers’ ‘instructions’, arrogance and ignorance, and the devices they adopt to impose their will, but individuals like Anthony Forster and the executive dean for humanities are not single spies. They’re minor but willing operatives in a larger mechanics of power.”
Her concluding remarks are a powerful critique and exposure of the UK academy’s decline. The option to move elsewhere will be taken by many worthy, pushed away. If good citizenry and higher education are still present within UK universities, then resistance to the very existence of managers must spring from within the sector. This is not easy to achieve, but should be a guiding principle for those who care about the future of education in this country.