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Interventionism is suddenly all the rage with the Westminster Conservative government, and higher education is feeling the impact as new policies and legislation are brought to bear on the sector, writes Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of Push and of the Engineering Professors’ Council.
Mike Boxall, an independent researcher and consultant on higher education policies and strategies, and a senior adviser to PA Consulting, considers the emerging post-COVID world and its implications for the future of universities. His blog is based on a paper published recently by PA Consulting, and co-authored with its HE lead, Ian Matthias.
An open letter calling for an end to the “managerial micro-management” of higher education forcing academics to function as a “small business” has been signed by 121 university professors.
The letter, published by the Guardian, says forces of “marketisation” are leading institutions to turn to “out-dated” models of competitiveness and efficiency that subjects academics to “continuous pressures to standardise, conform, obey and duplicate in order to be ‘transparent’ to measurement”.
It says “highly paid” university managers and even more highly paid management consultants are driving the process, “with little regard for, or understanding of, the teaching and research process in higher education”.
Unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress among both academics and academic-related staff and students abound, it warns, with “obedient” students demanding “hoop-jumping, box ticking and bean counting” and managerial surveys measuring consumer satisfaction.
“Such are the low ambitions of today’s universities, locked into a conservative status quo mentality; for what is there left to learn, when you already know it in order to demand it?” it adds.
The letter, signed by some leading figures across a wide spectrum of institutions, calls upon parliament’s newly election education committee to conduct an urgent investigation into “these grave matters”.
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