We see a higher education sector which meets the needs of the economy in terms of trained people, research and technology transfer. At the same time it needs to enable all suitably qualified individuals to develop their potential both intellectually and personally, and to provide the necessary storehouse of expertise in science and technology, and the arts and humanities which defines our civilisation and culture.
It is hardly surprising that universities in Britain are badly demoralised. Even those statements which are clearly intended to be upbeat affirmations of their importance have a way of making you feel slightly ill. It is not simply the fact that no single institution could successfully achieve all the aims crammed into this unlovely paragraph, taken from the introductory chapter to the Government's White Paper, The Future of Higher Education, published earlier this year. It is also the thought of that room in Whitehall where these collages are assembled. As the findings from the latest survey of focus groups come in, an official cuts out all those things which earned a positive rating and glues them together in a straight line. When a respectable number of terms have been accumulated in this way, s/he puts a dot at the end and calls it a sentence.
LRB 6 November 2003 | PDF Download