Letter : Entrenched elite at UK universities

Share
Related Topics
Sir: Ted Wragg's article (15 August) made such a sensible case against a superleague of elite universities, one can only wonder why anyone would think it a good idea.

Wragg focused on the limits a superleague would place on the ability of many excluded departments to raise themselves into eminence, and consequent damage to the morale of staff and students. A parallel feature is what to do about departments of international renown that would be left stranded in institutions not deemed worthy of the superleague. There are many such. Is the proposal to move them? Or destroy them?

Inversely, excellent institutions include poor departments, and some individuals who have ceased to produce brilliant work. Their research already has more funding than good research in poorly rated departments. What is proposed will amplify this inefficient use of public funds. Furthermore British snobbery is already such that graduating from some institutions automatically grants superiority, even when professional opinion knows that the teaching is dull and the research invisible. A superleague will only confirm anti-egalitarian reflexes already too prevalent in this country.

One would have thought that these simple truths would be self-evident to intelligent representatives of the people. That they need stating at all indicates that higher education policy is more than ever the victim of ideological contradictions. Because the Government espouses the free market, it has made polytechnics equal in name to established universities and set up supposedly objective assessments of teaching and research quality. Social Darwinism is the name of its game, pitting each against all in the pursuit of slender financial resources. This is in many ways wrong- headed, but it is at least logically consistent. But such competition is destabilising, unpredictable, short-termist. Really "free" markets are nightmares, and myths: control cannot be left to fate so governments always intervene. In this case, rather than develop a subtle and sophisticated educational policy, the interventionist impulse is to ossify the current elite.

Fortunately the consequence will be unworkable, and the idea does have some value: it will give ministers and civil servants "a big idea" to play with until the election, and it will frighten the intellectuals. Two laudable political goals for an establishment that invests in short- term personal benefits as if these guaranteed the collective future.

Dr ROBERT CLARK

Senior Lecturer in English

University of East Anglia

Norwich

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'