The LSE considers going private

Labour Party

The London School of Economics has presented plans about going private to its governing body in the wake the coalition’s cuts to higher education.  Apparently, along with Cambridge University, they feel there may comes a point after which it is simply not worth them staying in the state sector, even if they charge the proposed top rate of fee of ₤7,000 a year. 

The 40% cuts that the coalition is proposing for the higher education sector is going to disproportionately hit arts and humanities subjects, and LSE, being a world leader in social and political sciences, will feel the brunt more than most.

A letter signed by the chairman and director of the LSE, sent to Vince Cable regarding his statements on the Browne Report, strongly criticises his emphasis on subjects which provide specific skills, such as science and technology, over others.  The letter states that:

“No case is made in the report to suggest that the teaching of the social sciences, or indeed the humanities, are incapable of providing these skills or providing public benefit.  In fact, the social sciences provide students with many of the high-level and flexible skills desired by employers, including training in rigorous policy analysis, oral and written communication, and problem solving.”

As a history graduate myself, I find the idea that the coalition can have so little regard for subjects such as history, politics, social science and philosophy, deeply troubling, especially since many of members of the government have degrees in just these subjects.  The LSE does not offer any science or technology based courses, but is an institution of world renown that attracts the highest quality of student from the UK and abroad.  They go there because they know that the skills they can learn will be invaluable.

Furthermore, as a Labour representative, I am acutely aware of the role that the London School of Economics and its founders Sydney and Beatrice Webb, played in the early years of my party’s history.  That an institution built on the principles of social democracy and equality is considering becoming a private institution is disturbing, to put it mildly. 

A spokesperson for the LSE made it clear that they had to consider all available options in the light of the spending review.  The coalition is running the risk of putting too much strain on the institutions that make Britain a world leader in higher education. It would certainly not be in the national interest to undermine the excellent standing in which our best universities are held. Britain stands to lose a lot by falling behind in higher education, both at national level where our own students would not have the option of the highest level of learning and internationally where Britain is at the very top of the tree.

Siegfried Sassoon’s Archives will remain in Britain

Labour Party

I’m afraid I have only just caught up with this, several days after the event.  However, I thought it was still worth blogging as it’s good news for history and culture in Britain.  It’s also a very appropriate post for Remembrance Day.

A threat that a rich personal archive of Siegfried Sassoon‘s journals, poems and letters would be broken up or sold to the US appeared to have been lifted last week when the National Heritage Memorial Fund announced  it was awarding £550,000 to Cambridge University’s campaign to buy the war poet’s literary archive. That means the university is now just £110,000 short of the £1.25m needed to secure it from the Sassoon estate.

The news was, of course, welcomed by the Sassoon campaign, including his official biographer, Max Egremont, who called the archive “extraordinary”.

According to The Guardian, Andrew Motion, a former poet laureate also involved in the campaign, called it “extremely good news”.   He also said the news that the archive seemed likely to stay in Britain should be celebrated. “It’s perfectly true that US libraries do an extremely good job of looking after archives, and to say they should be kept here does not imply that they would not be looked after in the US – in fact they are rather brilliant,” he said.

 The campaign to raise the money was launched in June and Cambridge University’s librarian, Anne Jarvis, said it had been unsure of what reaction it would get, given the economic climate.  She said it was important for the nation that the archive remain in Britain. “[Sassoon] is such a figure and had such an impact on the historiography of world war one,” she said.

Sassoon, a patriot, joined up as war was about to break out and soon ended up in the unimaginable horror of the western front.  Those of us who have seen his poetry know just how much the experience traumatised and transformed him.  He and the other Great War poets show just why war is so very bad for all of us and why we should continually strive for peace.