Council for the Defence of British Universities (CDBU) launched this week

In the face of relentless government reform of higher education in England, the newly-founded CDBU unites academics from numerous English universities who share a ‘distaste for treating a university education as a mere commodity, an idea that appears to be the heart of the government’s reforms’* and hope to refocus the debate.

This is their Manifesto for reform**:

The Council for the Defence of British Universities is independent of any political party, for although we oppose many of the present government’s proposals, the assumptions to which we object were equally evident under its predecessor.

Our core principle is that the Council for the Defence of British Universities exists to advance university education for the public benefit. This is underpinned by nine supporting aims:

• To defend and enhance the character of British universities as places where students can develop their capacities to the full, where research and scholarship are pursued at the highest level, and where intellectual activity can be freely conducted without regard to its immediate economic benefit

• To urge that university education, both undergraduate and postgraduate, be accessible to all students who can benefit from it

• To maintain the principle that teaching and research are indispensable activities for a university, and that one is not pursued at the expense of the other

• To ensure that universities, while responding to the needs of students and society in general, should retain ultimate control of the content of the courses taught and the methods of instruction employed. As well as often providing vocational training, university education should equip graduates with the mental skills and intellectual flexibility necessary to meet the demands of a rapidly changing economy. It should develop the powers of the mind, enlarge knowledge and understanding, and enable graduates to lead fuller and more rewarding lives

• To emphasise that, as well as often having vital social and economic applications and being subject to accountability, academic research seeks to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the physical world, of human nature and of all forms of human activity

• To ensure that methods employed to assess the quality of university research do not encourage premature or unnecessary publication or inhibit the production of major works that require a long period of gestation

• To safeguard the freedom of academics to teach and to pursue research and enquiry in the directions appropriate to the needs of their subject

• To maintain the principle of institutional autonomy, to encourage academic self-government and to ensure that the function of managerial and administrative staff is to facilitate teaching and research

• To ensure that British universities continue to transmit and reinterpret the world’s cultural and intellectual inheritance, to encourage global exchange and to engage in the independent thought and criticism necessary for the flourishing of any democratic society.

For more information about the CDBU, including details on joining, please visit www.cdbu.org.uk.

*Peter Scott: Academics have started to argue back on higher education reforms, The Guardian, 12 November 2012

**Times Higher Education, Fidei defensores, 8 November 2012

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