he system of "publish or perish" in the U.S. goes back at least to the
early 50's. It's my impression, though, that at that time in England
academia was rather clubby and that publication was not required for
membership. When I came to teach in Canada in the mid 60's, we had what
the University considered was a British system, no tenure, but a person
would be hired "without term" after a year's employment. Now that may
not have been an accurate reflection of what went on in England. But it
did mean that the teaching faculty had a great deal of latitude. The
university exercised control through promotion and salaries; teaching
and committee responsibilities were the same for everyone. I had the
impression that things were in fact pretty similar in the UK. In fact,
the system seemed pretty much the reverse of what Simon describes today.
Living in London in 1975, I met with someone in my field who was a very
productive scholar, but she seemed overwhelmed by University
responsibilities and had to squeeze in time for her research.
The creative arts have always been a difficult fit for the university.
Simon's account of the "point" system (in a previous post) describes
something that would be laughable if it weren't true. It sounds like a
last ditch effort to interpose a simulacrum of objectivity between art
and the requirements of the academic institutions. Even with refereed
journals, we know, there is subjectivity of judgment, but with art
subjectivity is the name of the game. And from this perspective the
point system is ironically as good as any for institutionalizing the
practice of art. For, technique apart, what does "peer review" mean in
art, if not one sensibility caroming off another? I have a friend whose
self-esteem never survived his failure to be promoted to full professor
on the basis of his fiction. He was turned down by his "peers", all of
whom were part of a close group interested in the same things. Had we
had a point system, perhaps this man would have been successful. Who knows?
Despite the difficulty of fitting the arts into a university paradigm, I
cannot imagine a university where they were not taught. Or, I should
say, to imagine such a university, would be to imagine a landscape
barren and benighted.
Simon Biggs wrote:
> In the UK we have a word for it...Utilitarianism. Jonathon Bentham advocated
> this ethical system in the 19th century. He also founded University College
> London, one of the key institutions for research in the UK, as well as the
> foundations of the welfare state, the penal system and aspects of
> contemporary governance. Bentham was, in some respects, a pioneer of extreme
> patrician socialism.
> Much of the UK system derives from his ideas and in this respect there is
> nothing new about what we see happening. Academia in the UK has always been
> typified by this approach. That we see the creative arts subject to the same
> logic is not surprising. If you seek to supš at the same table as others
> you will be subject to the same obligations. Put another way, there are
> always strings attached.
> This Utilitarian approach to education, industry and social development is
> possibly the key distinction between the Anglo-American and European models
> of knowledge and its production/dissemination. The Bologna process is
> largely based on this Anglo-American model so it will be interesting to see
> what happens as it collides with European tradition. Who knows what the
> outcome might be?