POSTED BY MARTIN KICH
The United Kingdom, Part 4: Northern Ireland
In October 2015, Mike Larkin contributed a feature article to the Belfast Telegraph that challenged the fundamental logic in the arguments for the corporatization of Northern Ireland’s universities:
“When is a university not a university? When it is a business perhaps? The recent episodes of Queen’s: A University Challenged on BBC Northern Ireland were illuminating. They shed some light onto the vast extent of an operation that is typical of a modern university.
“But shocking to many was the incessant stressing of Queen’s as a ‘business.’ That the programme-makers dwelt on this reflects an emphasis deliberately concocted by the university’s management.
“This uncovering of Queen’s as a business reveals an inherent dilemma and tension affecting many universities. The programme’s episodes serve us well by opening up the debate about what a university is, what it is for and its mission in our advanced society.
“For if, indeed, it is a ‘business’, it is a strange one. Strange for a business to be regulated by Royal Charter and Statutes, whereby employees are protected by academic freedom defined by UNESCO in Paris in 1997.
“As a business it is strange that Queen’s is also registered as a charity (Northern Ireland Charity Commission number 101788). This status was renewed as recently as July 2015 for the ‘advancement of education’ for the benefit of ‘the general public.’ . . .
“The trust students have in academics setting the standards tips too much toward the student setting the standards.
“The partnership with academics starts to break down. Meanwhile, with little or no contact with students, the management keeps an eye on the bottom line.
“The academics stuck in the middle need to acquire urgently a clear vision, as their education was no doubt free of fees and in a different environment. But what type of business has customers that are also the product? It is not a fixed product, but one that is educated and encouraged to innovate, change and evolve in a developing society that they themselves will construct in time. One where they will also become the future investors in the ‘business of education’, as their parents did before.
“Add to this a mix of increasing fees, Government cuts and the general fog of uncertainty and this may lead us to neglect the very purpose of a university” (Larkin).
Mike Larkin, Queens University, Belfast
Larkin, Mike. “We’re All Poorer If Profit, Not Learning, Is Bottom Line.” Belfast Telegraph 20 Oct. 2015: 22-23.
Previous Posts in the Series:
Post 1. Canada—University of British Columbia [Part 1]: https://academeblog.org/2016/04/24/global-survey-of-academic-freedom-issues-in-2015-post-1-of-a-series/.
Post 2. Canada—University of British Columbia [Part 2]: https://academeblog.org/2016/04/25/global-survey-of-academic-freedom-issues-in-2015-post-2-of-a-series/.
Post 3. Canada—University of New Brunswick: https://academeblog.org/2016/04/26/global-survey-of-academic-freedom-issues-in-2015-post-3-of-a-series/.
Post 4. Canada—Capilano University: https://academeblog.org/2016/04/30/global-survey-of-academic-freedom-issues-in-2015-post-4-of-a-series/
Post 6. Canada—Additional Items: https://academeblog.org/2016/05/08/global-survey-of-academic-freedom-issues-in-2015-post-6-of-a-series/.
Post 7. Australia– Nikolic, Powell, and Price: https://academeblog.org/2016/05/18/global-survey-of-academic-freedom-issues-in-2015-post-7-of-a-series/.
Post 8: Australia–Copenhagen Consensus Centre at Flinders University and Monash University Branch Campus in China: https://academeblog.org/2016/05/21/global-survey-of-academic-freedom-issues-in-2015-post-8-of-a-series/.
Post 9: New Zealand—Police and Government Interference in Academic Freedom, Tertiary Education Union and Association of Scientists: https://academeblog.org/2016/06/30/global-survey-of-academic-freedom-issues-in-2015-post-9-of-a-series/.
Part 10: United Kingdom, Part 1: Free-Speech Rankings, Issues in Higher Education, and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act: https://academeblog.org/2016/08/17/global-survey-of-academic-freedom-issues-in-2015-united-kingdom-part-1-post-10-of-a-series/.
Part 11: Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues in 2015: United Kingdom, Part 2: https://academeblog.org/2016/08/20/global-survey-of-academic-freedom-issues-in-2015-united-kingdom-part-2-post-11-of-a-series/.
Part 12: Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues in 2015: United Kingdom, Part 3, Scotland [Post 12 of a Series]: https://academeblog.org/2016/12/11/global-survey-of-academic-freedom-issues-in-2015-post-12-of-series/.