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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

De eodem...

And, just to underline that, let us recall former Education Minister Charles Clarke and his scandalous concept of university education, as expressed in a letter to the Guardian in May 2003:

I consider that the best justification for state funding is that universities are the main means of enabling our society to understand itself (including its history and culture) better, and so better equip us to deal with, and prepare for, the increasingly rapid process of change which our whole world is experiencing and will continue to experience. This justification encompasses each of research, teaching and knowledge transfer. It is a case for enhancing scholarship not reducing it, as you imply I want to do.

I think that this case for state funding of universities is much stronger than a justification based simply upon the need for the state to finance a relatively small group of individuals to pursue their own academic interests, without reference to the student population. At Worcester I characterised this old-fashioned view of "the university" as "the medieval concept of a community of scholars seeking truth" and I said that though this can be justified it is not (in my view) the most powerful argument for seeking state financial support.

Understanding our society is all well and good, but if a university is not first and foremost 'a community of scholars seeking truth' - the truth, on its own terms - we're in trouble on that front and every other. Which is, of course, why so many of our universities are in trouble, both within themselves and under the assault of governmental policies. How long will it be before (for example) Glasgow is forced to change its glorious motto as being horrifyingly uninclusive? Via, veritas, vita. Woefully un-utilitarian... Floreat mediaevalismus! if it's medievalism to know our need of the Way, Truth and Life before all else.

[Right, hobby-horse posting over.]