Thursday, 18 March 2010

Privatise profit, socialise loss: universities and the crisis

Priyamvada Gopal, who works in Cambridge University's English Faculty, has written a superb polemic against the dominant 'free market' vision of education. It is well-timed, as cuts to funding in higher education are announced today - and at Sussex University students and staff are uniting to stop massive cuts in courses and services. I recommend reading the article in full - here's part of it:

'Freedom, democracy and widening social participation through education are fine ideas. Especially in other people’s countries and societies. Billions can be spent and two wars waged in the name of these high-minded ideals.

Back home? Well, between the bankers and the bombs, the chest is now empty. Something’s gotta give and it certainly won’t be the bailouts and bonuses. We’re all in the same boat, we’ve been told (though most of us in steerage as we head towards the iceberg) and must share the pain. (‘Privatise profit, socialise loss’).

There go pensions, savings, jobs, public transport, housing, benefits and, obviously, higher education. But, hey, cheer up. The Prime Minister says that when things get better, we can have a Pride in Britain Day as a treat, a ‘dividend’ on a better economy: ‘It’s to celebrate the many things that are good about Britain and the British people.”

Of course, by then we might not know quite what we are celebrating. Most of the humanities will have been decimated through department closures and job losses (which will inevitably affect the quality of primary and secondary education) and most young people will have been corralled into factory-farmed vocational training. In the name of ‘productivity’ and ‘economic value,’ the study of the arts, classics, literature and history will have either dwindled into nothingness or become, as they once used to be, finishing coats of glamour paint for the privileged and the pampered, stops on an educational Grand Tour to garnish the bombast of future bankers and politicians.'

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