The road to serfdom

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

Last week, The Guardian carried an article by Peter Scott (no relation) with the title: This bad bill will put universities on the road to serfdom.  

It begins:

"The government’s argument that its new higher education bill will give legal backing to both academic freedom and institutional autonomy, as well as supporting research, needs to be treated with caution and a good dose of cynicism.  Many parliamentary bills read like Soviet-era diktats.  In clause piled on sub-clause, secretaries of state give themselves powers that they claim (and may even believe) they do not really want and will hardly ever use.  Even by these low standards, the present bill is a shocker.  Does the secretary of state really need powers of “entry and search”?"

I am always amazed that parliament allows governments (of all stripes) to ram bills full of powers that someone may need in the future to spare them the trouble of having to go back to MPs for approval.  It is as if the Monarch and the Privy Council [PC] had never evolved into anything more subtle and democratic.  Mind you, the Cabinet is only really a sub-committee of the PC so perhaps we should not be surprised.

Scott says that:

"Buried under this mound of new regulatory powers are a few limp restrictions intended to protect academic freedom and institutional autonomy.  But the whole thrust is to do precisely the opposite by making universities more accountable – to students notionally, but really to politicians.  With the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework a new tyranny of metrics is actively being prepared.

Indeed, and would you trust the new-style HEFCE with any of this when conflicts of interest are built into its remit?  I think not.  It won't be spending much time speaking truth to power.

Let us hope that some backbone in to be found in the House of Lords to prevent at least some of this degrading, egregious, meretricious nonsense passing into law.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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