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Lord Giddens on Education

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2011 at 12:18 am

Lord Giddens is a predominant scholar in the field of Sociology, published at least 34 books and served as director of the London School of Economics and Political Science from 1997 to 2003. These are extracts of his speech at a debate on the impact of the government’s policy on universities the 13th october 2011 at the House of Lords, in which he condemned the Browne report.

” All universities combine research and teaching; they are centres of creativity and innovation, which have a massive impact on the society at large. This impact is in some part economic; universities in this country have a turnover of something like £30 million […] However, I stress strongly that their impact goes well beyond the economic sphere. Universities have an extraordinarily far-reaching impact on our civic life and our culture.

The attraction of British universities to overseas students is not simply a matter of economics. Of course, it beings a lot more money into the country, but it is really important to recognise that our large number of overseas students has a tremendous impact on the countries they come from when they go back to them. They carry with them their experience of this country and its institutions. They normally carry with them an affection for this country, and they form a kind of friendly worldwide diaspora.

Universities are not a sort of supermarket where education can be chosen like a washing powder off the shelf. Students are not simply consumers, making day-to-day purchasing decisions. They will make a one-off decision. The whole apparatus of a marketplace in which you have consumer-led enterprise seems alien to what universities are and should be about.

Mr Willetts denies this, the arts, humanities and social sciences are especially vulnerable as a result of government reforms, and I speak as a social scientist myself. This will be especially true in middle to lower-level universities. It is difficult for me to see that, when you load up fees so quickly, many students will turn away from subjects that do not have a clear vocational outcome, especially in the lower-level universities. The top universities will do all right; most people want a degree from those universities because it confers market advantages. When you get lower down the system, you have to ask whether students will incur a debt of £30,000 or £40,000 to read history at a university that is, say, 75th in the British league of universities. This is very much open to doubt. […]

I therefore see government policies potentially producing chaotic consequences, and ask the Minister what the Government will do if departments are forced to close. Will they simply accept that? […] The Government seek to contain inequality and promote social mobility in the context of their reforms. However, it is blindingly obvious that these reforms, because of their dramatic nature, will have a negative impact on inequality. This is likely to be so both at the bottom and at the top of the university population. It will surely deter a large number of poorer students from applying to university at all.”

The Integral Text is HERE

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