The Knowledge Economy…

I had my own thoughts of pursuing another postgraduate qualification a few years ago. I knew I’d never retire to the south of France on a lecturer’s salary, but the idea of teaching really appealed to me.But the horror stories about the profession seemed to be reaching such a clamour that I was dissuaded from exploring it any further.

I’m not always the first person to agree with Terry Eagleton, but his recent piece, The Slow Death of the University had me nodding and sighing by turns:

“Education should indeed be responsive to the needs of society. But this is not the same as regarding yourself as a service station for neocapitalism. In fact, you would tackle society’s needs a great deal more effectively were you to challenge this whole alienated model of learning. Medieval universities served the wider society superbly well, but they did so by producing pastors, lawyers, theologians, and administrative officials who helped to sustain church and state, not by frowning upon any form of intellectual activity that might fail to turn a quick buck.

Times, however, have changed. According to the British state, all publicly funded academic research must now regard itself as part of the so-called knowledge economy, with a measurable impact on society. Such impact is rather easier to gauge for aeronautical engineers than ancient historians. Pharmacists are likely to do better at this game than phenomenologists. Subjects that do not attract lucrative research grants from private industry, or that are unlikely to pull in large numbers of students, are plunged into a state of chronic crisis. Academic merit is equated with how much money you can raise, while an educated student is redefined as an employable one. It is not a good time to be a paleographer or numismatist, pursuits that we will soon not even be able to spell, let alone practice.”

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