The war against humanities at Britain’s Universities

“Currently fixed in the crosshairs are the disciplines of the humanities – arts, languages and social sciences – which have suffered swingeing funding cuts and been ignored by a government bent on promoting the modish, revenue-generating Stem (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects. The liberal education which seeks to provide students with more than mere professional qualifications appears to be dying a slow and painful death, overseen by a whole cadre of what cultural anthropologist David Graeber calls “bullshit jobs”: bureaucrats hired to manage the transformation of universities from centres of learning to profit centres.”

“The coalition government’s education policies, led by Michael Gove and David Willetts, continued Thatcher’s market-driven reforms, cutting all direct funding to the humanities, creating the cumbersome research excellence framework (Ref), which seeks to audit the academics’ research “outputs”, and overseeing a dramatic increase in the number of staff on short-term contracts. The coalition also put in place the recommendations of the Browne review, the manifesto of philistinism commissioned by the Labour party to map the future of higher education funding in the UK. Written by the former chief executive of BP, it was originally offered as a sop to those who opposed the imposition of £3,000 student fees in 2004. In fact, it marked the final step in the marketisation of our universities, with academics as middle management, pulled apart by the competing demands of their non-academic overlords and the newly powerful “consumers” of their “product” – the students.”


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