Monday, 8 February 2010

Denn alles fleisch

Have you heard any news about King's College London recently? KCL is one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Nay, it is one of the most distinguished universities in the world. Of all the British institutions that are known across the seas, KCL is high up there on the list.

So, you've heard no news? Me neither. Not, that is, from the mainstream media. The only thing is, last week KCL announced not only that they were making over two hundred redundancies, they compounded the matter by saying that all staff in the Arts and Humanities would have to reapply for their jobs. Everyone but everyone, from lowly teaching fellows, to world-class professors. 'Gizza job' is set to become the order of the day.

So, why haven't we heard a word about this in the mainstream media? I grant you academics are hardly cherished as national treasures. But, we're not all Curry Studies specialists teaching at Thames Valley University, nor are we all writing studies with names like, Gendering the Divide: Dividing the Gender. So why not a word?

I'm not sure I know. Perhaps it is a sign of how low these institutions have fallen in the nation's mind, which is overpowered by crucial issues such as the next Big Brother series or whether John Terry is a fit captain of the England football team. Perhaps it is a symptom of the age-old disrespect in which intellectual pursuits are held in this country, the embarrassment which dictates that English academics can sit in common rooms and be too gĂȘnĂ© to talk about anything other than the weekend's sports results. I really cannot say for sure.

What I can say for sure is that university management teams across the country will be watching KCL like hawks to see if they get away with such a slash-and-burn policy. What happens next is anyone's guess.

I have many complaints about modern academia, its vile obeissance in this country to the ridiculous pressure of research assessment exercises, its readiness to swallow tosh, its feudal system which is stricken with favours and nepotistical tendencies.

But, most of the colleagues I work with are men and women of extraordinary ability who have undertaken a profession whose nature is set against the reduction to functionalism and market forces which dominate the rest of the nation's culture. Should these be mown down like grass? I hardly think so.

Denn alles fleisch ist die Gras of course. But while the bankers are making hay? Give me a break.

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