Universities Inc.

Courtauld academics picketing on the first day of the strike.

The attack on teachers’ pensions, the cause of the strike, is merely part of a larger system under which the universities have been increasingly marketised and privatised, with dire consequences for students and staff alike.

Universities have been thrown into artificial competition with one another, not just over the recruitment of students but also over research and teaching in a blatant divide-and-rule strategy. The Research Excellence Framework is the vastly expensive and unwieldy system that audits our research by panels of experts (who may also be our rivals) which rank pieces of our writing. This has unsurprisingly encouraged a good deal of timidity and convention in our research ‘outputs’, as they are so tellingly known, as if academics were factories. The results determine which university departments get the most research money, and the consequences of slipping even one rung down the ladder can be dramatic cuts. Of course, as soon as you tie audit to reward and punishment, you can forg