Birkbeck No-Confidence Campaign
In support of the Birkbeck Motion of No-Confidence in Minister for Science and Higher Education David Willetts. We, the undersigned staff, students and alumni of Birkbeck College wish to express our lack of confidence in David Willets as the Government Minister responsible for Higher Education. We urge Bikbeck Academic Board members to reflect this strength of feeling in our College, and vote for this motion of no-confidence when it is tabled at the Board meeting on 16 November 2011: 'The Academic Board of Birkbeck College has no confidence in the policies of the Minister for Science and Higher Education David Willetts. We call on the government to pause its implementation of the White Paper, which has the potential to inflict great and irreversible damage to Higher Education in the UK.' English Higher Education is in disarray. As the new term begins, Birkbeck staff and students - like their colleagues nationally- face deep uncertainties about the future quality and autonomy of our university system. The Coalition's White Paper on Higher Education reinforces the sweeping and unmandated changes to university funding and regulation, chiefly aimed at engineering some kind of market in our sector. This process has severely disrupted the life of our College, generating unpredictability around student recruitment and institutional planning, whilst distracting academics from the day-to-day business of teaching and research. The consequences of imposing such a radical overhaul are already visible in Birkbeck: a stratification of quality and price where departments and programmes charge differentially for the same activities, and where the College is forced to compete for students, space and resources with new, for-profit providers under a market rigged by quotas and controls. As a College with a proud tradition in research-led teaching, the narrowly instrumental view of 'student satisfaction' championed in the White Paper is especially disturbing. Ideological notions of 'consumer choice' and 'perfect information' trump scholarship and research as markers of educational quality in the White Paper. Interests other than the welfare and autonomy of our universities are driving the Coalition's policy on Higher Education. The proposed reforms will seriously compromise the quality, range and content of teaching and learning at Birkbeck as elsewhere, subjecting them to the capricious laws of the market, not the principles of critical and independent scholarly inquiry.