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AUTUMN

25th October


within which teaching takes place. As a result, the pressure and temptation to simplify the curriculum and make courses less demanding and more 'student friendly' militates against the commitment to spend time with difficult ideas.

The sentiments articulated in this installation sum up the fraught nature of the choices and accommodations that we face. A contributor set out the choice in the following stark terms:

"I think most people at a university like this recognise that if you want to get a career, if you want to advance, if you want promotion, it doesn't matter how good or innovative a teacher you are, it counts for nothing really. You're much better getting publications, a reputation at conferences, PhD students, than you are getting a reputation as a great teacher of undergraduates, that's my view."

The quantitative measurement of academic value and performance are a part of the increased marketisation of the sector. The auditing of research undercuts the place of teaching within an academic vocation, fostering instead a disciplined careerism that is both self-involved and by implication ridden with anxiety.

"That quantitative measure has meant in effect that most of us have been pushed into a position of either saying 'I don't care about a career, I'm really interested in teaching student's or you have to say 'If I care about a career I've got to publish stuff.' And to publish in our present conditions of work means neglecting other things, and

 


unfortunately teaching is one of the easiest to neglect, because there aren't really any direct forms of accountability."

The injunction to produce doesn't necessarily result in more communication. Perhaps the ultimate indictment contained here is that the profusion of sociological literature that results from making research the ultimate priority finds limited if any readership.

"People write books and nobody reads them, thousands of journals that nobody reads. However, students are real people, and they come and they are expecting some degree of quality in what they get at university. And I have to say, many people who are employed as university teachers, in my view, don't give that quality. They regard teaching as something secondary to the great adventure of discovering new knowledge that no one is interested in."

Academic writing in this characterisation is little more than a language game, prestige without value, knowledge that does little to nourish the imagination or even command attention.

Such a characterisation is resonant with Lindsay Waters' damning critique of academic publishing in America. As an executive editor for Harvard University Press, Waters has monitored shifts in academic life from inside the belly of the beast. The result, he argues, is the over-production of "unread" and "unloved" books. He suggests academic books are not written now to be read or loved, rather they are written to be counted. The concern to communicate ideas is trumped by the

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5 November