Friday, July 22, 2011

Peter Cameron on the purpose of a university

I have quoted an earlier post of Peter Cameron:
"The purpose of a university used to be teaching and research; now it is making money and scoring well in league tables".

He has just amplified this posting and I must endorse most of what he says.

I have a couple of extra comments to make:


Peter says that now teaching quality is judged by student evaluations. But in fact in Sydney at least the situation is much more complicated - new staff members are advised to begin developing a teaching dossier which includes research in teaching etc. He rightly says that research is evaluated by grant-attracting ability.

The accademic community is not blameless in this change.

The teaching and learning policies were introduced by academics.

When I began my career in 1970 there were no such things as grants for mathematicians. Later we happily accepted them and asked for more. We gradually spent more of our time writing grant applications.

I have no objection to politicians deciding priorities for public resources. I find many claims by scientists (see Brian Cox) for a greater share of public funds ridiculous.

However decisions of quality in teaching and research must be done by academics. If they do it badly universities will be damaged. Using so-called objective measures is an abdication of responsibility.

The situation is particularly clear in Italy. Nobody trusts anyone (perhaps with reason), and as a result the wily Italians have built up an incredibly intricate net of controls to keep people honest. When people are dishonest the controls don't work. For honest people the controls are an impediment. Nevertheless good work gets done.

It is hard however to recommend this new academia as a career to young people.

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1 Comments:

OpenID cameroncounts said...

The last comment is the saddest part of this whole business.

6:22 AM  

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