Sunday, 17 October 2010

Browne, Badgers, Blackberries and Bosnia.

It's been good to get to the end of a busy week at University. On Tuesday the long awaited Browne report was published making proposals for the future of student finance. For all the scare headlines it's actually quite a modest proposal which will effect institutions - who will have to be spot on in their marketing to ensure that places are filled - far more than it will the students themselves, who, will owe sightly more but will pay it back at a similar rate to now and not have to put anything up front. The big problem is that the document is full of doom laded statements about the future of Britain's business performance unless we educate our workforce.

The pretence is that consumer choice will provide the market in which we sort this out - but already the protected subjects (anything that isn't a humanity it seems) mean that a command economy of sorts is being constructed and the actual effect of the plans seem much more orientated to break the equilibrium between the arts and sciences at University level than it does to genuinely equip future generations with the vision and imagination to realign society as a whole. It's an economist's rather than an educationalist's dream.

On Friday I had a brief conversation with President Siobhan about the Student Union's response to the proposals. A big demo is being organised in London for November 10th in opposition to the raised fees, but she seemed a little despondent at the level of apathy amongst those students she'd talked to. I wonder whether it's to do the infrastructure of the Union itself, which has always served the needs of the clubs and societies, raised money for charity and organised social events - but has little record of political engagement. Maybe with the wide ranging changes on the horizon - including a need for Universities to co-author student charters - it's an opportune moment to call on St Mary's students as a whole to up their game.

Saturday back in the Ham Lands - glorious as New England in a blaze of colour. A long walk, crunchy leaves, the bushes laden with blackberries and a wonderful meeting with a badger - who seemed as surprised to see me in the clearing as I was to see him. This is a beautiful place to live.

Today I headed over to The Oval House for a first read through of the Bosnia play with a mixed cast of St Mary's students and members of the theatre's youth arts group. It ran for an hour and went really well. Afterwards a cracking discussion which reassured me that more was right than wrong and gave me a couple of pointers for the next move.

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