The White Paper is about the ideological demand to privatise HE in the UK, to transfer by that means the common wealth of our culture and sciences unto the hands of the few.
Browne’s prioritization concurs with Steven Hawking’s view that science is all we need to answer the big questions of philosophy, and the latter can fight for its survival among the other idols of the marketplace. Science has even superseded literature, Darwin having displaced Shakespeare as the touchstone of National Genius.
The government is now faced with the choice of clawing back funds by three means: cutting the research budget, cutting the remainder of the teaching budget for ‘priority’ science subjects, or cutting student numbers across the sector. The first two options would disproportionately effect so-called ‘elite’ universities with strong research and large science faculties, who are already as expected charging the full £9K and unable to raise additional income beyond that. The third option would be a toxic political legacy for Vince Cable and the LibDems, no longer the party of ‘social mobility’ but the party that trebled tuition fees and cut student places. David Willetts tours the television studios of the UK asserting that he does not recognise the figure of £1bn as the additional cost of price-clustering around £9K. He is quite right; the actual figure is at least £3bn per annum.
Words such as شعب (people), which conjures up a visual representation of the labyrinth and narrow mountain pass, or ثورة (revolution) expressing an action through the mental picture of the bull, are indicative of the complex montage of image, space, bodies, action and words which characterizes the Arabic language. A more careful reading and a better translation of such key words may lead to a better understanding of the structure of feelings which informs the cultural context of the protest movements in the Arab world.
One of the ‘pupils’ of the French university and former student of Badiou himself, Tunisian-French philosopher Mehdi Belhaj Kacem describes Badiou’s nostalgia for hierarchy and discipline as a symptomatic position of the ‘radical chic’.
The ultra-leftist discourses of the most quintessential contemporary philosophers of the West, says Badiou’s pupil, are incapable of understanding or commenting on the Arab revolution. It is no random coincidence that Zizek’s audience meets in the comfort of the lecture venues of Europe and the United States rather than in those of Cuba or North Korea.
Three key words have been prominent in these protest movements across national boundaries. They have been translated as ‘people’, ‘street’ and ‘revolution’, which is fine up to a point. But that is not exactly what they mean. They are of course ultimately untranslatable, but the word translated as ‘people’ is ‘shaab’ in Arabic (شعب), which evokes among other things spatial images of labyrinthine entanglement and narrow passages. It is into this labyrinth that the Arabic ‘people’ are taking the world. In becoming aware of these differences that disrupt the roadmap of correspondence and references structuring most of the comments on the mediatised spectacle of the Arab street, we may discover that a different revolutionary path of deferred dreams is being taken.
It is precisely because the simple linear linkages between higher education and the economy have become more problematical that universities have an even more intense engagement with economic development – but an engagement not just with the economy in a narrow bounded sense. It is as much through their social and cultural dynamism as through the employability of their graduates and the ‘impact’ of their research that universities make their most significant contribution to economic development.
Our liberal leaders believe that they alone are in charge of all the consciousness of reality there is: a hallowed, if lonely, task. Obama refers to the intransigence of his enemies as ‘the fact of the matter’: ‘I’ve got to look at what is the best thing to do, given that reality’. And then to do it, without being ‘able to feel good’ about yourself, the opiate favoured by the ideological and the immature: that is an acquired, dry, but clearly addictive taste.
Restorative justice will only come from the students themselves. This is an uprising without coordinates or coordination, without party, without union or institution. It is a link of affiliation and solidarity beyond any common belonging to a nation, or class. It is the reimagining of alliance against power for an epoch of new networks of oppression and resistance that as yet have no road map or predetermined responses, without precedent in this country for two generations. For this reason the students must continue to protest, to hustle and hassle, to tweet and blog, and scream and shout as much as they can until this disgraceful injustice is repealed.
The so-called new universities are engaged in a social process that their critics cannot begin to understand. Their transformation of the life chances of entire ethnic and class groups is perhaps as significant to British society today as the founding of the NHS was in 1945. The democratization of higher education is not something to be wished away lightly.