Religion, Theology, and the Human Sciences

By Richard H. Roberts | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
The end of the university and the last academic?1

In memoriam: Donald MacKenzie MacKinnon (1913–1994) It is through man's cruelty that the glory of God is revealed.2

We must compromise our principles, and do anything to raise money.3

British universities have for over fifteen years been subjected to something approaching permanent revolution from above, and during this time higher education has been aggregated with primary and secondary education and reconceived as a mechanism capable of producing the numbers and kinds of skill-trained minds required by business and industry at minimum cost, and with the highest degree of standardisation possible. To this end, higher education has been subjected to three stages of reform. First, agradual programme of greater financial accountability was introduced with the budget-centre system, formula-funding and line-management (1982–6). Second, the 1987/8 Education Reform Act abolished academic tenure and introduced a series of measures, built around the imposition of 'teaching quality audit' (including the application of BS 5750 and ISO 9000), modularisation and semesterisation, and the quinquennial Research Assessment Exercise. This period culminated in a doubling of the size of the tertiary sector and consequent dilution of the meaning of the term 'university'. Finally, in 1997,

____________________
1
This chapter originated in an annual St Leonard's College (the postgraduate body of the University of St Andrews) Commemoration Address entitled 'The End of the University and the Last Academic', delivered before members on 8 November 1992. The long-term consequences of this expression of opinion for me were extremely serious. A succinct version of this address appeared as 'Our Graduate Factories', The Tablet, 11 October 1997, pp. 1295–7.
2
Donald M. MacKinnon, God the Living and the True (Westminster: Dacre Press, 1940), p. 88.
3
This is the self-fulfilling prophetic utterance of the Vice-Chancellor of a leading British university in his annual address to academic staff in the mid 1980s.

-86-

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