A draft abstract for a talk:
What would be a genuine radical example of the university evaluating itself? I propose that this would not be the blunt branding exercise of metrics, quality assurance, REF and league tables. This is a bureaucratic beauty contest of merely cosmetic interest, no intellectual merit and ethically corrupt. Instead, assume three things: 1) the university is its entire population, students, academic teaching and research staff, administrative, support, and infrastructure staff, and users, stakeholders, vested interests. 2) all these constituent groups are capable, and can be supported, probably for less cost than the current evaluations, to look at their own work and be researchers tasked, from day one, with participation in workplace inquiry and 3) a variety and proliferation of research styles, report modes, and transparencies are compatible despite their possible non-commensurability – that a thousand flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend need not add up to a single algorithm but can exceed present evaluations many fold. Drama Therapy, ethnographic film, counter-mapping, workplace inquiry – all these trading on resources already inside and outside the university and foregrounding the self-critical DNA of what the university mission should be all about. Not mere rhetorical support for the humanities or increased public understanding of science through promotion of a few media friendly dons, but a genuine radical effervescence of ideas, creativity and questioning of what the abundant potentiality of the social production if knowledge might be.
So I want to make three points.
1) That the university crisis is a consequence of a monetization of the university in the interests of industry and this is disguised in a pervasive, but wholly inadequate, discourse of accountability that does not have the resources to really account for the situation. REF, Hefce visit, SWOT analysis and audit surveys are ill suited to the extent of the crisis.
2) the departments and sections of the university have, each of them, been remodeled for pecuniary gain. A typology of the ways the commercial imperative can be presented, but is no pretty sight. A deep critical re-evaluation of the university is demanded, but any criticism or questioning of the path of managerialism is rapidly undermined.
3) solutions to this predicament already lie within the university and its communities, but it requires a radical transformation of all roles in the university to include self-auditing as robust research component of all jobs. Time for this must be allocated, funded from gains available once senior executive positions and moneys spent on consultancy and pointless audits are redistributed. Training of the workers in the sections for the new deeper critical auditing can be provided from budget lines freed up by departing executives.
Everyone agrees the crisis in higher education is never far off, but a strange kind of complacency looms. All manner of statistical and anecdotal evidence can be deployed to underline this proximity to crisis. Yet, the number of times the crisis has been forecast exceeds plausibility and is topped only by the excessive statistical data and ‘analysis’ that purports to explain it away. Discuss.