'Audit Culture'? Sure about that?

This Times Higher Education article annoyed me this morning:

No plaudits for ‘audit culture’
Academics in the UK have to devote themselves to “gaming the system and distorting their output” because of the “elaborate audit culture” that has developed around higher education.

That is one of the opinions put forward in A Manifesto for the Public University, a new collection of essays by campaigning academics in opposition to the coalition’s university reforms.

Writing in the book, published next month, Michael Burawoy, a British professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that the sector has been the victim of bureaucratic attempts to simulate market competition.

This regulation is now being deployed to teaching as well as research, he argues. Together with “commodification”, universities are facing twin pressures that are “destroying the very basis of (their) own precarious autonomy”.

Professor Burawoy’s essay is one of seven in the book, edited by John Holmwood, one of the academics behind the Campaign for the Public University, which has launched an alternative to the higher education White Paper.

And so on and so forth 

What annoyed me about it was the lazy way it was using terms like audit and bureaucratic when describing the position we’re in. The usual baddies. Strikes me we’re only where we are because of politics, not bureaucracy. It’s not too much audit that started messing with our funding positions and set us off down this track to the market. If anything, we’ve either not got enough audit or have too much of the wrong kind.

There’s lots wrong with where we are now, but if we just go back over the whole ‘academic v administrative’ themes, as THE is wont to do, then heaven help us.

Worrying statistics?

Worrying statistics

Documenting the curious increase in claimed family deaths — especially of grandmothers — during tests season at college
This gem is from “The Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome and the Potential Downfall Of American Society” by Mike Adams (The Connecticut Review, 1990). Adams’ hilarious explanation for this phenomenon:

“Only one conclusion can be drawn from these data. Family members literally worry themselves to death over the outcome of their relatives’ performance on each exam. Naturally, the worse the student’s record is, and the more important the exam, the more the family worries; and it is the ensuing tension that presumably causes premature death.” — www.easternct.edu/~adams/Resources/Grannies.pdf

How others see all this

The view of UK tuition fees from the rest of the world
Yet by abolishing public subsidies in the humanities and social sciences, the government expects private graduates to finance the public goods themselves – goods that manifestly benefit employers and society. As the Americans say, “go figure”.

E-Learning to save the day?

How Big Can E-Learning Get? At Southern New Hampshire U., Very Big
Academe is abuzz with talk of “disruptive innovation”—the idea, described by Harvard’s Clayton M. Christensen, that the prestige-chasing, tuition-raising business model of higher education is broken, and that something new and cheaper, rooted in online learning, promises to displace it.

Records management ‘humour’

Who knew there was such a thing?

Records Management Humor
Top 10 reasons to not get organized
1. Hunting for important documents adds excitement to a boring schedule.

2. Stacking papers on your desk protects it from ultraviolet radiation.
3. Being as confused as everyone else helps you fit in.
4. Moving piles of paper keeps you in shape.
5. If you understood what you were doing, you would be terrified.
6. Confusion brings out the best in you.
7. Organization kills creativity.
8. Shuffling papers prevents dust from piling up.
9. Your coworkers will never find what they’re seeking.
10. Clutter magnifies your importance.

From the leaders of Google’s data visualization research group

HINT.FM / Fernanda Viegas & Martin Wattenberg
“As technologists we ask, Can visualization help people think collectively? Can visualization move beyond numbers into the realm of words and images? As artists we seek the joy of revelation. Can visualization tell never-before-told stories? Can it uncover truths about color, memory, and sensuality?”