The uncertain future of Higher Education: prisoners in an age of hyper-adversarial political culture?

Many words have been recently spent on the future of Higher Education under the auspices (and diktats) of the coalition government. However, further attention should be given to the wider political scenario within which this modern tragoidía is taking place.

In this sense, Peter Scott’s article for the Guardian underlines how the real obstacle to a fairer Higher Education system lies in the hyper-adversarial culture which is increasingly permeating the UK political arena. According to the author, in recent years none of the mainstream political parties has seriously endorsed the cause of a “free” and fair higher education system funded out of general taxation.

With hindsight, it is now clear that at the last general election higher education was deliberately kept off the agenda, because none of the competing parties was able to offer a credible policy on the issue. Since then, the situation has deteriorated, policy vacuity has taken over from each side of the political spectrum and, finally, the tragedy of HE has unfolded according to the plot penned by Mr Willetts. Therefore, despite its direct responsibility, the current government is not the only one to blame for the threats posed to the higher education system – rather, what really lies at the heart of the problem is the culture of reluctance spread throughout the entire political class.

Overall, what it would take to get Higher Education out of the slippery slope on which it has been pushed by the coalition government is not a mere change of political direction, but a wider and much more ambitious shift in the modus pensandi of the whole political system.

While we wait for such a cultural change to happen, Higher Education will continue to agonise.

Categories: Higher Education

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