A few days back saw the launch of the Council for the Defence of British Universities. A pretty impressive list of luminaries are behind it, including some you would have expected – like Alan Bennett and Richard Dawkins – and some you might not have – like John Cadogan and William Waldegrave.
Many people feel that academic values have been under persistent attack since the Thatcher era. Why the new feeling of crisis? Its not just the fees thing, or we Scots would be complacent. Its not just the “impact” thing – its pretty understandable and even good that we should feel some pressure to be relevant to UK PLC. No, its the student as customer thing. Take a look at the Browne report – it really is quite scary. Stefan Collini’s LRB article explains it all very well. Then if you want to be really frightened, look at the happy smiling faces at the Key Information Sets website or the official KIS info at the unistats web site.
From now on, you see, student choice will magically drive up quality as long as we collect and publish information on how many toilets the library has and so forth. No need for the state to do anything! All we need to do is give the seventeen year old kids some money, and let them spend it on the universities they reckon are best! Mmm.. sorry, whats that? How can they do that before they have any experience of what university education is actually like? Well, thats what the Key Information Sets are for!