Look to future of universities
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