Last month, a group of prominent academics in the United Kingdom launched the Council for the Defence of British Universities (CDBU). A few days ago, one of its members, Thomas Docherty, a professor in the department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick, published a brief article in the Chronicle of Higher Education in which he sets that development in a larger context by writing that universities around the globe are “lurching their way into precariousness . . . by placing commercial values over academic ones.” The CDBU has emerged because the academic community in Britain is increasingly “uneasy that the sector should unquestioningly accept the idea that the scope of education—and indeed, human freedom—is reduced to a celebration of shopping for degrees in a supposed ‘free market.’” Such a system is one, he writes, in which academics are treated as “a ‘human resource’ whose function is to sustain a system decided by senior management,” and in which “[d]issident views or thoughtful critiques are not to be held, much less expressed.” Docherty explicitly objects to the growth of university administrations which, he writes provocatively, “exist to perpetuate themselves, like some kind of carcinogenic cell that threatens the academic body.” As an article in Bloomberg noted last month, “administrative bloat” at American universities is indeed significant, with the growth in administration at American universities rising 60% between 1993 and 2009. The CDBU aims to alter this situation in Britain, and in his piece for the Chronicle Docherty expresses his hope that “an American counterpart” will emerge. How about a Canadian counterpart too in which senior academics across Canada lead the Canadian academy in the defence of academic values at Canada’s universities?
- "What did I say that could not and should not be said everywhere?" Raphael Hythloday in Thomas More's Utopia (1516)
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