Look to fu­ture of uni­ver­si­ties

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Letters And Opinion -

The lo­cal uni­ver­si­ties ben­e­fit Can­ter­bury, and Can­ter­bury ben­e­fits them.

Harry Bell’s ar­ti­cle “Uni­ver­si­ties too keen on ‘growth’” was, how­ever, both apt and timely.

I know a great deal of con­sul­ta­tion has taken place over Kent Univer­sity’s rather grandiosely ti­tled Master­plan. How­ever, for an aca­demic in­sti­tu­tion with claims to dis­tinc­tion, the ver­sion on which I was con­sulted on mov­ing to Can­ter­bury just un­der two years ago, lacked, in fun­da­men­tal points, in­tel­lec­tual rigour and in­tegrity.

It put for­ward a case ap­par­ently based on two flawed – or at least ques­tion­able – premises, which it left un­ques­tioned.

The first was the tacit as­sump­tion that a univer­sity in 50 years’ time would be largely the same as, or sim­i­lar to, a univer­sity to­day.

There was no con­sid­er­a­tion that a univer­sity might by then, for ex­am­ple, be a rad­i­cally changed, mainly ‘vir­tual’, univer­sity with a cen­tral role of highly de­vel­oped dig­i­tal out­reach with life-long learn­ing into an elec­tron­i­cally so­phis­ti­cated, roboti­cised world very dif­fer­ent from that of to­day.

An­other pos­si­ble devel­op­ment is that to smaller uni­ver­si­ties sug­gested by Harry Bell.

Se­condly, there was no anal­y­sis what­so­ever of the very con­cept of ‘growth’.

No fun­da­men­tal thought was ex­pressed as to dis­tinc­tions be­tween benef­i­cent and malig­nant growth.

There was no thought at all as to op­ti­mal size, ei­ther for a univer­sity it­self or with re­gard to its im­me­di­ate en­vi­ron­ment. In­stead there ap­peared to be the as­sump­tion that growth would in­evitably be good, and that small was not beau­ti­ful, but ugly and un­wor­thy.

Against this back­ground, there is rea­son to be fear­ful of the Univer­sity suc­cumb­ing to an ap­petite for self-serv­ing en­large­ment and mis­sion creep at the ex­pense of its en­vi­ron­ment.

Lo­cal res­i­dents are, for in­stance, deeply con­cerned at the gov­ern­ment in­spec­tor’s en­forced abo­li­tion of the well judged and needed green gap, which had been orig­i­nated and ap­proved by Can­ter­bury City Council.

He has over­rid­den the con­cerns of lo­cal ci­ti­zens and their as­so­ci­a­tions who thought at last they had saved the Chaucer Fields from the Univer­sity’s pre­da­tion, only to be con­fronted with this. Once lost to bricks, mor­tar and tar­mac, the green gap would be ef­fec­tively ir­recov­er­able. A scan­dal.

If Kent Univer­sity is to be, and show it­self, re­ally con­cerned with benef­i­cent devel­op­ment and the good of the town on which it de­pends, it might en­er­get­i­cally and pub­licly pur­sue pro­pos­als for a med­i­cal school with Christ Church as a means to the proper hospi­tal pro­vi­sion so

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