Acceptable in the 80s

Mark Leach, editor of Wonkhe, gave a lecture at the University of Greenwich earlier this month entitled ‘The Enemy Within’. The title alludes to a comment made by Margaret Thatcher about striking miners. In the context of Mark’s lecture it also refers to the increasingly maligned role of the university VC and how this position has come, in certain circumstances, to be totemic of the broader public perception of higher education. This is something of an intellectual departure from our usual jazz, but both the corresponding podcast and article are, as someone working in university marketing or student recruitment, very much worth your time.

Why, you ask? Well, good question. There’s a danger, in the perpetual freneticity of the UCAS cycle, of losing sight of some of the bigger questions that surround the quest for bums on seats. Why do we talk about universities as we do? How is it that a degree came to be a saleable product? Where did the lexicon of fees, debt, and unconditionality emerge from? It’s super valuable to reflect on a longer narrative for the sector in order to help better understand how we now think about, discuss, and communicate it. Mark also makes an interesting appeal to the various actors within universities to see themselves as part of a coherent whole, rather than as constituent members of diverse and competing interest groups. Recruiters and marketers are important institutional stakeholders and have as much right and responsibility as anyone else to shape and situate the contemporary university.