Saturday, 12 March 2011

A Case of Misidentification

This comment piece was published in Exeposé. It outlines the problems that current University of Exeter students are suffering, now that the University is prioritising its status as a business as opposed to an institute of higher education.

I can’t be the only one who was left distinctly underwhelmed by the news that the University of Exeter is the 62nd fastest-growing business in the Europe. Our current investment programme is one that only a small number of companies could ever hope to devise, made all the more unattainable by random injections of cash donated by generous alumni. But does this mean that we occupy a fair place among these rankings?

I would say no. The current level of growth is one that cannot be sustained. We are set to fall drastically from this plinth of economic prestige and we must be aware of the fact that were are an anomalous statistic, set for decline when the cuts make their move and the money runs out. In addition, given our unfortunate stance as the ‘lost generation’ of Exeter students, we can safely say that, during our time here, the university has ingratiated itself as a business far more than it has as an institution for learning. Maybe we’re the unlucky ones, but seeing corporate suits grinning their way to the top of the wrong kind of league table makes me feel like we’ve been sorely mislead in our view of what a university should be, and what, in reality, we’ve been provided with.

Something is definitely amiss when a university is proud of climbing the ‘fastest-growing business’ rankings, whilst quietly hushing up the fact that our employability and staff/student ratio levels are ensuring our decline in the higher education league tables. I don’t wish to purport a luddite-esque stance of ‘change is bad’, but I do bemoan the fact that our time spent here at Exeter has been marred by a severe lack of balance. What these statistics show is that the fine line between investing in the future and protecting the sanctity of learning has not been struck.

Hopefully this trend will experience a dramatic reversal when the Forum Project has finished, for the sake of the university’s future students and the worth of our degrees.

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