A few years ago Stefan Collini wrote an excellent book questioning the purpose of universities. His most compelling answer related to the culture of the country. I was reminded of his writing when I read Martin Robinson’s excellent post about Arts education. After Collini wrote his book, the coalition government continued to pursue a policy that placed no real value on culture beyond the market and one of the parties was rewarded at the general election with a majority. The British people backed a view of society that demanded a narrow and measurable efficiency at every stage of education.
In the aftermath of the election, Jo Johnson was made universities minister. He is hoping to leave his mark on higher education by introducing a Teaching Excellence Framework. Unfortunately, the quality of teaching is not to be judged on the balance of subject knowledge, pedagogy, assessment and relationship that is at the heart of learning but on the average earnings of graduates. Universities are to be the finishing schools of consumerism.
Education has never been valued solely for itself but we have lost a belief in the enrichment of lives through education that goes beyond the material. Through that loss individuals, universities and society are all impoverished.