O Intermitente<br> (So long, farewell, auf weidersehen, good-bye)

O Intermitente
(So long, farewell, auf weidersehen, good-bye)

quarta-feira, dezembro 03, 2003

(A Verdadeira) Autonomia Universitária

Um artigo no Daily Telegraph expõe as diferenças entre as universidades inglesas e americanas. Uma comparação, em grande medida, aplicável a Portugal.

What is at stake is not so much the principle of university education being free to all. In practice, that disappeared long ago. The question is: can higher education continue to be a government monopoly? Is it economically, or politically, viable for the universities to have their financing, employment and admissions arrangements determined by politicians?


The government provides and the government decides. Until very recently, when the well finally did run dry, universities ran on the uneconomic presumption that because what they did was inherently good, government should give them - pretty much unquestioningly - whatever they felt that they needed.


Because their income comes from government, they spend much of it in the systematically wasteful ways which are endemic in the public services.

When I arrived in this country as a post-graduate student, I was shocked to discover that my British university employed an army of (unionised) menial staff to do jobs that would have been filled on my American campus by students. At American universities, every job that does not require a specialist qualification - in the library, in the canteen, in the halls of residence - is taken by a student who is "working his way through" his education. This not only helps the student, but also saves the university a fortune in pay to cooking, cleaning and ancillary staff.

There is, in fact, a huge diversity of ways to pay for your education in the United States. I went to Berkeley, a state university, where I paid quite low subsidised fees, but had to work off-campus to pay my maintenance costs.


Harvard famously undertakes to provide funding for any student good enough to be accepted who cannot afford to pay. Thus the rich kids subsidise the poor kids - as equitable a system of wealth and privilege redistribution as you could want, and it has nothing to do with government.


The real waste in higher education is not on lecturers and research fellows. It is on overpriced equipment, feather-bedded administrative offices, and enormous numbers of manual workers doing low-grade work that could be carried out by undergraduates.

I lost count, during my teaching years, of the ludicrous overspending on materials purchased from suppliers who saw the state-subsidised sector as a cash-cow.

What is wrong with top-up fees (*) is that they are just that: they will come on top of a subsidy that does not permit universities any serious freedom to rethink their economic or administrative practices. It allows government to interfere in decisions about what proportion of students should be admitted from which backgrounds, the balance between teaching and research, and which courses are fit subjects for study.

(*) Propinas diferenciadas.
posted by Miguel Noronha 2:25 da tarde

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"A society that does not recognize that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom."

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