Reflecting on the Roles and Responsibilities of University Faculty and Management
Edited by Roger Sugden, Marcela Valania and James R. Wilson
Chapter 2: The ‘form’ of ‘reform’. The postwar university in Britain, 1945–1992
The nature and purpose of university education in Britain is much misunderstood. The current prevailing evaluation of universities as machines for the production of human capital is a relatively new one, inapplicable to the quite recent past, as the recent writings of Stefan Collini have sought to emphasize. But given the rapidity of changes to British higher education since the later 1980s, not all directly related to the 1992 Act, it is very difficult to form a clear picture of the development of the British university system during the second half of the twentieth century, especially since there has always been so little informed discussion. In addition, while it might be assumed that well-found reform must necessarily be based upon a sound understanding of the object of reform – the historical reasons for the existence of the object in a particular given form – in the sphere of British higher education this amounts to a quite novel and radical idea. This chapter seeks to address the problem in a limited and particular way: by considering the history of the post-war New Universities, the green-field campus universities mostly associated with the 1960s, but initiated in 1950 with the opening of Keele University.
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