Higher Education – What it is for, and how to defend it? Towards a Charter for Higher Education in the UK

Friday 24 and Saturday 25 May 2013

Edited highlights of the speeches can be viewed, see below.

Organised by the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics (CAPPE), University of Brighton, and co-sponsored by the Campaign for Public Universities, the Council for the Defence of British Universities, and the UCU at the University of Brighton, this two-day conference on  Higher Education – What it is for, and how to defend it: towards a Charter for Higher Education in the UK investigated the current changes that British Higher Education (in England and Wales) is undergoing.

The Convention was designed to enable colleagues from the full range of university disciplines to address how to preserve a properly described ‘higher education’ from the effects of current proposals, and from the redefinition of universities and of higher learning. As a complement to the Council for the Defence of British Universities and the Campaign for Public Universities, it considered, and adopted a draft of, a Charter for Higher Educationthat was debated and refined in most or all institutions of higher learning throughout the UK, and which could then form the core of values around which colleagues could cohere, whether as members of Councils and Academic Boards, Faculty or School Boards, as members of their Course Committees, or as union members.

The Convention has been occasioned by the 25th anniversary of the Humanities Programme at the University of Brighton. Born in in adversity in 1988 — in the midst of an earlier assault on the Humanities — it has survived and thrived by resisting both governmental pressure and temporary fashions in education and pedagogy. It is an interdisciplinary, non-modular range of degree courses based on small-group teaching, and research-focused student development. 

Discussion: a draft Charter for Higher Education, plus

  • The Ambit and Character of a University for the 21st Century
  • What is Special about a Public University System
  • Knowledge and Dissemination: the Commercialisation of Learning & Research
  • Constraints and Conformities: Defining Economic and Social 
  • Academic Freedom: its Meaning in the New Century
  • Work and Contracts in a Corporate University
  • The Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in Adversity: Governmental Myopia
  • How Mass Higher Education Does Not Entail Lower Standards (Humanities at Brighton)
  • Research Supervision: Craft or Mass Process?
  • Of Education, Entertainment and Satisfaction: Student Evaluation vs the NSS
  • Students, Staff and Democracy in the Academy
  • The Bureaucratisation of Learning: aims, objectives, methods, 
  • Of Careers and Careerism – Who Benefits: the Equality Agenda
  • Global HE as International Trade: Commerce and Contradiction
  • Quantum of Recognition: Vacuities of Research Measurement

Keynote speakers:

Colin Blakemore

Professor Colin Blakemore is a neurobiologist who is Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford and at the University of Warwick, and who specializes in vision and the development of the brain. He is also a member of the Institute of Philosophy’s Centre for the Study of the Senses at the University of London, and a founding member of the Council for the Defence of British Universities.

John Holmwood 

Professor John Holmwood is a sociologist at the University of Nottingham who specializes in the relation between sociological theory and explanation, and between social stratification and inequality. He is currently working on issues of pragmatism in public sociology, and particularly on the role of the university within a system of moral economy. He is co-founder of the Campaign for the Public University.

Priya Gopal

Dr Priyamvada Gopal is Dean of Churchill College, Cambridge, where she teaches in the Faculty of English. Her work is in the area of colonial and postcolonial literatures, and their relation to British and American literatures, the novel, translation and gender and feminism. She also has an interest in Marxism and critical theory, and the politics and cultures of empire and globalisation. She has published works on literary radicalism in India, Postcolonial studies after Iraq, and the Indian English novel.


Martin McQuillan

Professor Martin McQuillan is a literary theorist and cultural critic, and is currently Professor of Literary Theory and Cultural Analysis, and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Kingston University, London, where he is also Co-Director of The London Graduate School. His work investigates the relations between literary theory, art theory, cultural studies and continental philosophy. He has written on Barthes, De Man, Spark, Derrida and Disney. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Council for the Defence of British Universities.


Gill Scott

Gill Scott is Principal Lecturer in social history, whose research is concerned with the relationship between feminist ideas and the organisation of working-class women, particularly within the co-operative and labour movements. Her main focus has been the history of the Women’s Co-operative Guild, an auxiliary body of the British Consumers’ Co-operative movement, about which she has published several articles, and a monograph. She She was for many years the Course Leader of the degrees in the undergraduate Humanities Programme at Brighton.


Will Hutton

Will Hutton is a writer and weekly columnist for, and former editor-in- chief of, The Observer.He is currently Principal of Hertford College, Oxford, and Chair of the Big Innovation Centre, an initiative from The Work Foundation where he was Chief Executive from 2000 to 2008. He is also a governor of the London School of Economics, visiting professor at the Manchester Business School and at the University of Bristol, and a visiting fellow at Mansfield College, Oxford. He has written on China and the West, globalization and capitalism, state and economy, and the relationship between Europe and the USA.


Martin Hall

Professor Martin Hall, a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, is an educationalist and ethnoarchaeologist who has written extensively on South African history, culture and higher education policy. He is currently Vice Chancellor of the University of Salford. He has written on affirmative action in South Africa and the USA, and on memory, repression and resistance.


Luke Martell

Professor of political sociology at the University of Sussex, Luke Martell works on globalization and social movements, technology, the media and globalised culture. He has also written on social democracy and on New Labour, and on the politics and sociology of environmentalism.

Bob Brecher

Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Brighton, where he is Director of the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics, Bob Brecher, whose scholarly work commenced with the philosophy of religion, has recently developed a critique of Liberalism on the basis of a rationalist ethics. He has written on the pedagogies of liberation and resistance in the academy, and he is Course Leader of the MA in Applied Ethics.

Peter Scott

Professor of Higher Education studies at the Institute of Education, and Chair of the Research Advisory Panel, Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, Peter Scott was previously Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University. He has also been Pro Vice-Chancellor for external affairs at the University of Leeds, as well as Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Policy Studies in Education. He has been Chair of the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning, and a member of the HEFCE Board. Before going to Leeds in 1992, he was for 16 years editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement.


Tom Hickey

Principal Lecturer in Philosophy and Political Economy at the University of Brighton, Tom Hickey is Course Leader of the MA Cultural and Critical Theory. He works on the relation between politics, aesthetics and representation, was joint organizer of the biennial ‘Globalisation and Resistance’ conferences, and conferences on holocausts and their denials both for the UCU and at the Brighton. He has published on issues of democracy and on aspects of South African art. He has been a member of the National Executive of the UCU since 2006, and is Chair of the UCU Coordinating Committee at the University of Brighton.


Colin Green

Professor Colin Green is Emeritus Professor of Surgery in the Division of Surgery and Interventional Science, University College London. He was the Director of the Northwick Park Institute for Medical Research, and founder of International Medical Educational Trust 2000, which trains healthcare workers in Gaza and the West Bank. He is currently UNESCO Chair of Cryobiology with the Ukraine Academy of Science.

Caroline Lucas (MP)

Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion since 2010, Caroline Lucas was leader of the Green Party from 2008-2012, and was a Member of the European Parliament for the South East (England) from 1999-2010. She is Vice-President of the RSPCA and the Stop the War Coalition, and is on the National Council of CND. An English Literature graduate from Exeter, where she also gained her doctorate, she campaigns and writes on green economics, localisation, alternatives to globalisation, trade justice, animal welfare and food.


Thomas Docherty

Professor Thomas Docherty publishes on English and comparative literature from the renaissance to the present, and specializes in the philosophy of literary criticism, critical theory and cultural history. His recent interest has been in the area of cultural policy related to international higher education. He is currently working on two books, one on universities and the process of globalization, and the other on memory. He is on the Steering Committee of the Council for the Defence of British Universities.




Friday 24 May

registration; coffee
Welcome from Professor Stuart Laing (Deputy VC, University of Brighton)

Plenary 1: Chair: Bob Brecher, Director of CAPPE
Caroline Lucas, MP, ‘The Politics of UK Higher Education Today’

Luke Martell, ‘Responding to the Privatisation of Academia’

Peter Scott, ‘The New Regime in English Higher Education – neo-liberal marketisation or cultural counter-revolution (or both)?’


Simultaneous sessions 1

Session A: What is a University for? (intro: Des Freedman)

The Ambit and Character of a University for the c.21st.;
What is Special about a Public University System;
Constraints and Conformities: Defining Economic and Social Engagement.

Session B: Teaching (intro: Jim Wolfreys)
Tuition Fees and the Commercialisation of Learning;
Education, Entertainment and Satisfaction: the National Student Survey PowerPoint, Blackboard, Aspire: Techniques, Technologies & Pedagogies Bureaucratisation of Learning: aims, objectives, and outcomes

Plenary 2: Gill Scott, ‘25 years of the BA Humanities at Brighton’

Plenary 3: Thomas Docherty, ‘The World, the University, the Citizen’ Priya Gopal, ‘The Neoliberal University’

Saturday 25 May

registration; coffee

Plenary 4:

Colin Blakemore, ‘The Central Role of Research’
Terry Brotherstone, ‘University Governance: the Prodzynski Review and the Scottish Case’

Martin Hall, ‘Listening to the South’

Simultaneous sessions 2

Session D: Research (intro: Mark Erickson)

Quantum of Recognition: Vacuities of Research Measurement
the Commercialisation of Research
Academic Freedom: its Meaning in the New Century
Open Access and its Discontents: the Funding of Research Publications ‘Doctoral Colleges’ and Research Supervision: Craft or Mass Process

Session E: Science and the Humanities (into: Harriet Bradley) The Humanities in Adversity: Governmental Myopia
Aspiration, Imagination and Fashion: Patterns of Demand and Provision Future Anterior: Writing the c.21st History of Science

Corporate Identity and Market-Driven Course Design and Nomenclature lunch

Simultaneous sessions 3

Session G: Managing and Mismanaging in the Academy (intro: Harriet Bradley)

Managing Academies: the Deficits and Deficiencies of the Commercial Turn League Tables: Institutional Ranking and the Coherence of the Sector
Work and Contracts in a Corporate University
The Professionalisation of Teaching in the Academy

Session H: Of Borders and Barriers: the Rationing and Distortion of

Knowledge (intro: Des Freedman)
Global HE as International Trade: Commerce and Contradiction Immigration Control, the Academy and the Points-Based System ‘Brain Drains’: Capacity Building and the Ideologies of Exclusion

Reports to Plenary from simultaneous sessions’ rapporteurs; discussion of a Charter for Higher Education

tea and informal discussion

Plenary 5:

John Holmwood, ‘Markets, Democracy and Public Higher Education’

Tom Hickey, ‘Elective Affinities and Interdependencies: Teaching, Research and their Contractual Discontents’

Martin McQuillan, ‘Epistemological Enclosure’


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