Het eerste post van het jaar is wederom in het teken van Stefan Collini’s boek What are universities for? (en is daarom bedoeld ook als commentaar op de huidige situatie bij de Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen van de UvA). Of het bedrijfsmodel geschikt is voor universiteiten (citaat ‘Universiteit géén bedrijf’) en wat dient verstaan te worden onder ‘investering’ in het geval van hoger onderwijs (citaat ‘Investeren in de universiteit’) zijn de onderwerpen die de aandacht krijgen bij deze ‘aflevering’.
Universiteit géén bedrijf
«Commercial businesses, in this respect unlike universities, are almost entirely about instrumental goods. The return on capital is their governing criterion, and quite properly so […] Moreover, because the goal of a business is quantitative, it can be measured […] But because most of the important goals of a university are not quantitative, they can’t be measured; they will need, as I’ve already suggested, to be judged. This can be a difficult notion for people to accept. We tend these days to be highly suspicious of the notion of judgement, fearing that it too easily masks prejudice, snobbery, or even favouritism. By contrast, we trust measurement because it seems to be public, objective, and even democratic. But the trouble is, as I’ve already insisted, that not everything that counts can be counted. Sometimes we can only know if something is a good example of its kind by the view taken of it in the long term by those competent to judge […] Another problem arising out of the analogy I’m discussing is that businesses which make a similar product are necessarily in competition with each other. But this is only true in a metaphorical sense for universities; scholarship is in fact an inherently cooperative enterprise […] universities are not in fact rival firms because they’re not ‘firms’ in the first place». (pp. 138-140)
Investeren in de universiteit
«Reliance on overly individualistic and economistic premises repeatedly drives public discussion of universities up various kinds of blind alleys. Thus, it is sometimes argued that there is no reason why those who do not themselves go to university should contribute, through their taxes, to the costs of those who do. But this is to treat university education and whatever flows from it as a purely private good. I may choose not to have children, but I am happy to contribute to the costs of maternity hospitals, primary schools, and so on because I want to live in a society that makes civilized provisions for these things. […] I am suggesting that we do already, in all kinds of ways, recognize the claims on us of public goods, from defence through health and welfare to education and culture, and so elaborating and extending the logic of these claims is one potentially fruitful way to advance understanding of, and support for, the character of universities» (pp. 97-98). «… the degree to which large elements of research funding are now confined to so-called ‘national priorities’ – topics which the government itself, not the researchers in the relevant fields, deems it ‘worth’ researching – constitutes a level of direct interference that simply would not have been countenanced twenty years ago. Similarly, the imposition of commercial priorities and the requirement that universities serve the needs of business has reflected the growing confidence of those who speak for ‘the economy’ that they have an unchallengeable legitimacy which they believe those who represent culture, intellect, and education simply cannot match» (p. 196).
Het plaatje met het Zelfportret van Vincent van Gogh komt uit de website Think humanities Amsterdam.