Decline of Donnish Dominion: The British Academic Professions in the Twentieth Century

Decline of Donnish Dominion: The British Academic Professions in the Twentieth Century

Decline of Donnish Dominion: The British Academic Professions in the Twentieth Century

Decline of Donnish Dominion: The British Academic Professions in the Twentieth Century

Excerpt

The British senior common room today presents a spectacle more interesting than joyful. My purpose in this book is to trace some major trends in the behaviour and opinion of university and polytechnic staff--what Harold Perkin aptly dubbed 'the key profession' (Perkin 1969)--and to examine the fortunes of the institutions of higher education from the exuberant innocence of the Robbins expansion plan through the anxious disillusion of the 1970s to the renewed expansionist declarations of the Secretaries of State for Education (Mr Baker and Mr Macgregor) in the late 1980s and the competitive resolve of the new Secretary of State, Kenneth Clarke, and his Labour shadow Jack Straw, to put education at the top of the political agenda in the 1990s.

To this end I am able to rely on three surveys of British academic staff. The first survey was conducted in 1964/5 at the beginning of the period of expansion associated with the Robbins Report of 1963, making possible a book on The British Academics which put Robbins into historical context (Halsey andTrow 1971). The second survey was carried out in 1976 after Robbinsian expansion (Halsey 1979; Clark 1983). The third survey took place in 1989, a decade after the decisive shift in British higher education policy ushered in by the Thatcher government.

My intention then is to revisit the British academic professions and to analyse their changing structure and functions in the quarter of a century since the Robbins Report. The three surveys yield a unique set of trend statistics on the changing state of 'the key profession'. They are arrayed in barest outline at Appendix 1. They offer the basis for a systematic account of the changing disciplinary composition, material conditions, status, attitudes, orientations, and morale of the staff in British higher education since Martin Trow and I wrote in 1971. At that point it was possible to look back at the evolution of a highly restricted provision for higher education as it had evolved out of earnest Victorian efforts to adapt to the demands of an advanced industrial society. But, of course, both the world and the academic professions have changed . . .

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