Thrifty Thrift is selling out our education

After announcing a ‘global alliance’ with Monash University of Australia, Warwick Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift declared that “The world will sustain perhaps 50 such globally networked research-heavy universities which exist in many locations, do research in many locations, and which will produce students who will live, learn and research in many locations”.

This vision of a small educational elite of global research institutions defies the ideal of education as a universal right, by cutting off access to those who cannot afford it, similar to how our university was one of the driving forces behind the recent increase in tuition fees.

Warwick, under Thrift’s direction, naturally favours allocation of budget resources to more profitable ventures, such as business, technology (via the Warwick Manufacturing Group’s corporate partnerships with multinational companies such as Tata) and medicine. Why not also outsource research to cheaper locations abroad, and introduce distance learning programmes without need for academics to teach them?

In seeking greater profitability rather than a higher quality of education, Thrift has taken the obvious action of reducing the staff size – the total bill for Warwick staff fell £1.8m despite an overall financial surplus of £20.3m, more than double the previous year.
Naturally, the Vice-Chancellor, for his growing success at the marketisation of university education, as reported in the last issue of the Boar, received a pay increase of £3,000 last year, ensuring that his salary reached a staggering £274,000, including pension contributions.

As Andrew Ross suggests in his essay ‘The Rise of the Global University’, this Thriftian vision represents “the restless hunt for emerging markets”, masquerading “as a quest to further international exchange or democratisation”. A globalised corporate culture has already invaded higher education, and its effects must be stopped.


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