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Cambridge is succumbing to the woke virus - by David Abulafia for the Telegraph - 15.06.22

We enclose two articles on the current state of higher education: the first, by Cambridge History Professor David Abulafia who provides an update on the University’s latest report on freedom of expression which he says “retains a strong whiff of woke.”

The second analyses the alarming drop-out rates on certain university courses prompting government ministers to question the need for the very high numbers currently being encouraged to attend.

The furious response from the vice-chancellors was as predictable as the climb-down by the government, leaving long-overdue reform in yet another area being kicked down the road.


We begin with Professor Abulafia’s article which outlines the background to the current dispute and the reasons for his opposition to it:

“Back in 2020, Cambridge dons voted overwhelmingly against a policy that required respect for other opinions, arguing that it was one thing to tolerate a variety of views, but one cannot insist that people respect them.

I have no respect for Corbynista politics, but I do tolerate people who support them, who even include a few friends; and I know that I cannot force dogmatic atheists to respect dogmatic religious beliefs. To insist on “respect” is to rein in criticism. It is potentially a bar to free speech, and the vote among dons was taken to be a great victory for freedom of expression.

Now, however, the word “respect” has been resurrected in the new Cambridge University document. The HR brigade and its supporters are trying to edge forward and recapture the territory they lost following a democratic vote.”

He points out some glaring anomalies in the current proposals:

“Take the absolute correct point that it is unacceptable not to offer a promotion to an individual because “they” are (yes, those are the words – not “she is”) a woman, while offering it to a less qualified man instead. There is no mention of the reverse process, where a less qualified woman is offered a post over a better qualified man. The simple truth is that both these things occur, and both outcomes are unacceptable.”

“It comes down to this. Universities are places for debate. That debate should be lively and open. One of the cornerstones of medieval Oxford and Cambridge was the art of disputation, and students were expected to be able to argue both for and against a proposition.

That is to assume that debate is even allowed, or that when it occurs panels of speakers are drawn from the full spectrum of opinion. In the world of woke, there is no wish to debate and free speech is a form of oppression, which means the death of universities as we know them.”

The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:

Article for the Telegraph by David Abulafia - Cambridge is succumbing to the woke virus -
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Cambridge University - Daily Telegraph


As an addendum to the higher education agenda, we enclose the following report. Drop-out rates of up to 40% in some university courses have led government officials to question the wisdom of sending so many through university.

“The Government has been consulting the higher education sector since February on bringing back controversial controls on admissions as part of a hard line on “low-quality” courses.

One of the four proposed measures was “overall student numbers could be controlled at sector level”, with universities given a maximum allowance for entrants.

The other suggested policies were total number caps with exemptions for certain courses, and caps by subject level based either on their graduate employment rates at a national level, or based on graduate outcomes at individual universities.”

The response from University vice-chancellors has been entirely predictable:

However, the idea was roundly condemned, with Universities UK, which represents 140 British vice-chancellors, warning that the “heavy-handed” approach would be a “cap on aspiration”.

Equally predictably and equally depressingly, the government appears to have acquiesced:

Now ministers have ruled out sweeping limits, in what higher education sources said was an “inevitable” about-turn given the ferocious backlash.

On Thursday, Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, said: “I’d like to be clear that no one is talking about limiting the overall number of people going into higher education.”

So where does that leave us? As in so many other areas, the government position appears to be hanging in the air.

The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:

Article for the Telegraph by Ewan Somerville - Caps on university student numbers dropped
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