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Quotable quotes:

August 26, 2008

from Academic Freedom by Conrad Russell (New York: Routledge, 1993, 59):


It is no part of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s duty to question policy decisions reached on academic grounds. His function is to comment and advise on the propriety, regularity and efficiency with which moneys voted by Parliament are administered by those to whom they are entrusted.

Rt. Hon. Anthony Crosland, MP, Secretary of State for Education and Science, 26 July 1967

Ministers are no longer thinking in terms of grants, however calculated, but in terms of buying certain services from Universities . . . The Government is here a single purchaser . . . It will use the power which this situation gives it to press for higher quality and greater efficiency just as Marks and Spencer (for example) does in similar circumstances.

Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, last Chairman of the University Grants Committee

These two quotations illustrate with unusual clarity how Government policy towards the Universities has changed during the 1980s, and why it was felt necessary to reassert the ideal of academic freedom. What has disappeared between the first quotation and the second is the notion of any autonomous sphere of academic judgement. So too has any modest hesitation on the Government’s part about its power to judge academic quality. Instead, we have the appearance of the notion of ‘efficiency’, which, in Government parlance, does not in fact mean doing the job better. A speech touching on the potential conflict between cost-cutting and safety was once described by the minister as having spoken of ‘efficiency versus safety’. Efficiency, in the language of this Government, means simply the reduction of unit costs. It is this pressure for ‘efficiency’, more than anything else, which has created a battleground about the proper limits of the Government’s powers.


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