Thursday, 12 December 2013

Segregation and the International Business Model of Universities

The train-crash interview with the head of Universities UK, Nicola Dandridge on BBC Radio 4 this morning is symptomatic of the sheer confusion Universities find themselves in (see Caught between temptation to capitalize of rich international pickings, and concern about their own financial viability, Universities have embedded themselves within countries whose cultural values are very different to our own, but whose oil wealth, or wealth from other sources (including political corruption) entrances Vice Chancellors like the Siren song of the Lorelei. There are few academics, myself included, who have not been caught up or affected by these kind of initiatives.

As institutions which stand for truth, Universities are attractive partners for politically deficient regimes. And we should be clear than any culture that demands the segregation of men and women, or sanctions persecution on the basis of sexual orientation, or maintains unrepresentative forms of government is politically deficient. There are degrees of this, and we are all sullied at one level. But some of us can talk, think, campaign and write about it freely, and the place to do that is in the University.

Deeply deficient political regimes want legitimacy (thanks are due to a friend for really nailing this). University partnerships give them legitimacy. But in doing so, the Money God wins over the Truth God, and the legitimacy of the University is compromised. The current battle over segregation is not about religion. It is about political legitimacy for illegitimate regimes, and the threat to legitimacy to those institutions which we look to to maintain civil society.

The corrupting force, as always, is money (actually, it's sometimes sex, but that probably boils down to money too!). We need to understand what money does to truth: we're now seeing some powerful evidence (and perhaps we should welcome it). The segregation is not caused by some religious doctrine; it is caused by money. Money splits, compartmentalises, excludes, cuts. Truth loves, embraces, heals. We need to look at where  the education system increasingly is seeking to split, compartmentalise, exclude and cut society. It is these acts which we must oppose and ask ourselves how a University can love, embrace and heal and not grant legitimacy to those who seek the opposite.

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