University Reform April 13, 2010Posted by Andre Vellino in Universities.
I can’t agree with the conclusions Margaret Wente’s draws in her Globe and Mail column “Universities are sitting ducks for reform” but her views, which largely echo those of Ian Clark’s “Academic Transformation: The Forces Reshaping Higher Education in Ontario“, are no doubt going to be heeded by politicians looking to “trim the fat” from their ballooning budgets.
Yet Ms. Wente is right to claim that the days when academic excellence and the advancement of knowledge are central to the university enterprise are numbered. Sadly, universities are businesses – at the undergraduate level anyway – and
what the market really needs is … better ways to deliver utility courses such as Introduction to Thermodynamics.
The problem is that “the market” shouldn’t be dicatating the direction of research. Ms. Wente’s jab at “marginal research” – for instance in “critical literary theory”- just doesn’t hold water. “Taxpayers”, she says “are not going to subsidize” this research.
But since when are Joe and Jane taxpayer qualified to determine what research is and is not to be performed? Should we also ask the people to vote on whether this or that musical or literary composition should be supported by a grant? Is Thermodynamics 101 more important than Einstein’s Dreams? Ms. Wente, please explain how you know and why?