What role have the Universities themselves played in the recent brouhaha over fees? Peter Scott, himself a Vice Chancellor blames the university 'clubs' for the mess. Thinly disguised vice-chancellor clubs such as the Russell Group (see Wendy Piatt left), 1994 Group, Alliance Group and Million+ Group have turned from being discussion groups to campaigning groups. As Universities are represented by Mickey-Mouse unions, these so-called clubs have stepped into the breach and started firing off some very odd salvos.
The Russell Group’s hideous harridan Wendy Piatt has been campaigning hard for higher, uncapped student fees, way beyond any fiscal or social sense. Rather than club together to reform themselves, they decided to group themselves into a self-serving hierarchy. Rather than question their profligate capital spending, low occupancy rates, agricultural calendar, dull lectures and failure to tap into alumni donations, they simply became groups with begging bowls. This lobbying fell on deaf ears, as the politicians simply saw them as a divided mob, vying with each other for funds, rather than building the future.
With the notable exception of Martin Bean of the OU, who has fought hard for an alternative model in HE; more support for part-time students, private capital, new teaching methods etc. and Peter Scott of Kingston, Vice-Chancellors have fallen into line, queuing up for their MBEs, CBEs and knighthoods (by not rocking the boat).
Myth of managerialism
Of course, it’s wrong to blame Vice Chancellors alone, as Universities are largely run by Councils and Senates, which are largely run by academics. Few layman, and in fact few academics, really know how and who runs Universities, as most are not interested. Despite common claims of managerialism (litmus test for woolly thought), few private sector types exist in these structures and fewer still have any real power and influence. It’s academics and ex-academics who fuel the fire. If students want to occupy buildings they could do worse than the HQ of the Russell Group; 1 Northumberland Avenue, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5BW.