Save universities from the bean counters

More evidence of concern in the United States about the dramatic cuts to the Higher Education budget in the UK: in Nature, Gregory Petsko of Brandeis has called on fellow scientists to defend their colleagues in arts and humanities departments and singled out the cuts in George Osbourne’s budget as a dramatic symptom of the crisis in universities around the world. Professor Petsko, a professor of biochemistry and member of the National Academy of Sciences , has also published an open letter to the George M. Philip, President of SUNY Albany criticising, in withering terms, that institution’s decision to close several arts and humanities departments. ‘I’m willing to let you turn your institution into a place that focuses on the practical,’ wrote Professor Petsko to President Philip, ‘but only if you stop calling it a university and yourself the President of one. You see, the word “university” derives from the Latin “universitas”, meaning “the whole”. You can’t be a university without having a thriving humanities program. You will need to call SUNY Albany a trade school, or perhaps a vocational college, but not a university. Not anymore.”

See also an article by Simon Head in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books titled “The Grim Threat to British Universities” that sets the current government funding proposals in the context of a thirty-year assault on UK Higher Education by the proponents of US management techniques.

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