Browne’s plans will drive whole fields of knowledge into decline

Letters

Browne’s plans will drive whole fields of knowledge into decline

The Guardian, Friday 22 October 2010

The Browne report on higher education funding and student finance is wide of the mark in every respect (Universities: Shock at big cuts in teaching budgets, 21 October). The proposal to scrap the present tuition fee limit of £3,290 in favour of potentially unlimited fees set by universities themselves will load future generations of students with unacceptable levels of debt in order to pursue the democratic right of higher education. Those who benefited from a free, publicly funded, higher education should not tell future generations that they must now take on mortgage-sized debts to pay for the same privilege. We cannot begin to see how this arrangement could possibly be “progressive and fair”.

Second, the proposal to cut the teaching grant distributed to English universities by £3.2bn, with a 100% reduction for the artshumanitiesand social sciences, is a disaster for higher education, culture and the economy. The Browne report in effect proposes the privatisation of the arts, humanities and social sciences in England. It recommends that the state should no longer have any investment in these areas and that individuals should pay for them. The consequences will be to drive entire fields of knowledge into irreversible decline, leaving the country with one of the lowest public investments in higher education in the industrialised world.

Browne imagines that an unfettered market in tuition fees will free so-called elite universities to compete with the world’s best. On the contrary, if there is no public funding, then there will be no cap on student numbers for institutions. Humanities departments in “elite” universities will only survive by increased student recruitment, serviced at low costs. And what prospect is there that research in the arts, humanities and social sciences will survive the cut in the research budget?

We call on all the vice-chancellors of universities in the UK to voice their implacable opposition to the Browne report. It is their persistent call for increased fees in the past decade that has led Browne and his committee to their short-term, and ideologically driven, conclusions. But Browne does not propose an increase in “top-up fees”, rather the abolition of public funding to entire fields of academic life.

It is time to put aside the myth of “mission groups” that allows ministers to divide and rule the sector; to defend the very idea of the university; and to protect the life chances of future generations of students in England. We urge all academic staff to contribute to the NUS/UCU demonstration in London on 10 November.

Professor Martin McQuillan (Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University)

Sara Ahmed (Professor in Race and Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Graham Allen (Professor of Modern English, University College Cork)

Derek Attridge (Professor of English, University of York)

Stephen Barker (Professor of Drama, University of California, Irvine)

Christopher Baugh (Emeritus Professor of Performance and Technology, University of Leeds)

Andrew Benjamin (Professor of Critical Theory and Philosophical Aesthetics, Monash University)

Fred Botting (Professor of English, Kingston University)

Arthur Bradley (Professor of Contemporary Literature and Culture, University of Lancaster)

Ellen Burt (Professor of French, University of California, Irvine)

Michael Bradshaw (Professor of Renaissance Literature, Edge Hill University)

Howard Caygill (Professor of Cultural History, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Bryan Cheyette (Professor of Modern Literature, Reading University)

Hélène Cixous (Emeritus Professor of Women’s Studies, University Paris VIII)

Tom Cohen (Professor of English and Cultural Studies, SUNY, Albany)

Maria Delgado (Professor of Theatre and Screen Arts, Queen Mary, University of London)

Michael Dillon (Emeritus Professor of Politics, University of Lancaster)

Thomas Docherty (Professor of English, University of Warwick)

Alexander Duttmann (Professor of Philosophy and Visual Culture, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Robert Eaglestone (Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought, Royal Holloway, University of London)

Christopher Fynsk (Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Thought, University of Aberdeen)

David Theo Goldberg (Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute)

Peter Hallward (Professor of Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University)

Joanna Hodge (Professor of Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University)

Andrew Hussey (Professor and Dean of University of London Paris Institute)

John Hutnyk (Professor of Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London)

David Jackson (Professor of Russian and Scandinavian Art Histories, University of Leeds)

Scott McCracken (Professor of English, Keele University)

Angela McRobbie (Professor of Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Willy Maley (Professor of Renaissance Studies, University of Glasgow)

Peter Nicholls (Professor of English, New York University)

Mandy Merck (Professor of Media Arts, Royal Holloway, University of London)

J Hillis Miller (Distinguished Research Professor Comparative Literature and English, University of California, Irvine)

Simon Morgan Wortham (Professor of English, Kingston University)

Peter Osborne (Professor of Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University)

Roger Palmer (The Professor of Fine Art, University of Leeds)

John Protevi, (Professor of French Studies, Louisiana State University)

June Purvis (Emeritus Professor of Women’s and Gender History, Portsmouth University)

Adrian Rifkin (Professor of Fine Art, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Irit Rogoff (Professor of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Antony Rowland (Professor of Memory Studies, Salford University)

Nicholas Royle (Professor of English, University of Sussex)

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (University Professor and Director of the Centre for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University)

Rei Terada (Professor of Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine)

Patricia Waugh (Professor of English Studies, University of Durham)

Zoe Wicomb, (Professor Emeritus, Creative Writing and English, University of Strathclyde)

David Wills (Professor of French and English, SUNY, Albany)

Scott Wilson (Professor of Media and Communications, Kingston University)

 

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