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Reading Skeptics - University Shambles

Reading Skeptics meet monthly downstairs in Bar Copa, Kings Road for diverse topics of discussion given by a guest speaker. There's usually a big crowd in a small space, so come early and look out for me.

University Shambles - How to Ruin the Best University System in the World

Government cuts, rising tuition fees, graduates debt-ridden and unemployed, FE colleges becoming the new "new universities", the ruthless scramble for dwindling research funding, bankrupt universities laying-off staff and endlessly merging.

Universities have changed unimaginably. In 1992, the binary divide between universities and polytechnics was abolished and the latter institutions were relabelled as "universities", and sometimes referred to (often disparagingly) as "new universities". There then followed the creation of "new" "New Universities" (former FE colleges), and now, with the government lowering the lower boundary on how many students (customers) an institution must have to achieve university status, a promised further sphere of "new" "new" "New Universities" (former local colleges).

Over the past 20 years, we have lost the practical training that the polytechnics provided very well, with strong connections to local industry, to a system where good polytechnics have become bad universities, and which is producing a record level of unemployed graduates, each with a debt of around £30,000 for the privilege.

Rather than the government target of 50% of our young becoming "graduates", we need more electricians, plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, farmers, gardeners and bricklayers. Many of our "universities" should become technical colleges again, to provide practical training of exactly this kind. Much better to be a trained plumber, in demand and earning a good living, than an unemployed media studies graduate. The government austerity measures (flowing the bank bail-out of 2008), and consequent swingeing cuts to university budgets are already urging change in this direction.

Society is about to change dramatically, as supplies of cheap crude oil begin to fail. We can expect a drastic curbing of transportation on the scale to which we have become accustomed. Global growth will be stifled by limited resources. The consequence will be a re-adaptation to more locally-based communities, and indeed, we will need far fewer universities, and "academic" education, but much more in the way of practical skills.

Welcome to a Brave New World.

Professor Chris Rhodes is a writer and researcher who became involved with environmental issues while working in Russia during the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. He studied chemistry at Sussex University, earning both a B.Sc and a Doctoral degree (D.Phil.); rising to become the youngest professor of physical chemistry in the U.K. at the age of 34.

He has published more than 200 peer reviewed scientific articles and 3 books. He is also a published novelist, journalist and poet. His novel,University Shambles was nominated for Brit Writers’ Awards 2011: Published Writer of the Year.

Chris has given numerous radio and televised interviews concerning environmental issues, both in Europe and in the United States - including on BBC Radio 4's Material World. Latest invitations as a speaker include a series of international lectures regarding the impending depletion of world oil and the need to develop oil-independent, sustainable societies.



For more information, see:

http://reading.skepticsinthepub.org/

 


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  • Oli S.

    Sorry won't be there tonight, have fun tho

    May 16, 2013

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