So, Vice-Chancellor, now what?

So the UK is leaving the European Union and it is time for the Vice-Chancellors to panic. Before `university leaders’ tell university staff, students, and the public who pay their inflated salaries that “we’re all in this together” or some variation thereon, begging us to help get them out of this mess, they might like to think on their own conduct.

Insofar as `universities’ (their senior managers) have had anything to say about the EU referendum it has been in terms of money, EU research funding mostly, one of the principal currencies in the games played by the mediocre elite jockeying for advantage in spurious league tables. Of people as anything other than a source of money (international students) or labour (international staff), they have precious little to say.

This vote to leave the EU seems, insofar as anyone can tell at this stage, to have been motivated by fears about immigration, and by a desire to spit in the eye of an unaccountable and contemptuous elite. In either case, the vote was the vote of the people who have suffered most from austerity: low-paid, insecurely employed, dependent on collapsing public services. That vote against an elite has taken place in an atmosphere of xenophobia where `it’s not racist to talk about immigration’ but racists talk of little else, and are now shouting about it. Already, racists are openly organizing on the streets.

Before Vice-Chancellors start whingeing about what the ignorant masses have voted for, they might like to ask themselves:

  • what did they do when the Prevent strategy identified the `foreign’ and the `outsider’ as a danger to be controlled?
  • when have they spoken of international students as anything other than a source of easy money?
  • what did they do when overseas students were made subject to attendance monitoring?
  • what solidarity did they offer to the dispossessed and the refugee, forced into exile in the UK, and desperate to study?
  • what did they do for their worst-paid and most precarious staff?

The electorate has voted against an unaccountable elite which took its superiority for granted. That elite is more than just politicians.


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