Are British research universities losing their way or are they finding a new way?
Nigel Thrift, a well-known academic and a former Vice-Chancellor, explores recent changes in the British research university that threaten to erode the quality of these higher education institutions. He considers what a research university has now become by examining the quandaries that have arisen from a succession of misplaced strategies and false expectations.
Challenging both higher education policy and leadership, he argues that the focus on student number growth and a series of research policy missteps has upset research universities’ priorities just at a point in the history of planetary breakdown when their research is most needed.
– as has been argued over almost all of these measures each time – that while the sector grows it can afford [them] and that local and tailored solutions are better than national programmes. ... It may well also be that this is a terrible, inequitable and chaotic way to distribute funding – and that not only do vice chancellors make terrible health bosses or disability service heads, there are plenty of examples of structures across Europe where these functions are run (better) (separately) alongside but not by universities, cooperatively; regionally or nationally
obvious issues of maternity/paternity leave, serious illness, gradual loss of productivity during a career, disability, and so on, surely there are some minimum research standards of quality and quantity that ought to be met if you’re an active research academic in a research university. 16 (Not least because of the ghostly army of many other academics who would love nothing better than the privilege of standing in the shoes of academics in these universities whose research activity has lapsed.) One of the issues that is often skated over in all of this is what would