Some of my favourite blogs have captured the zeitgeist perfectly, though Paul Anderson takes it too far by being tempted to write semi-approvingly of the latest guff from cultist Frank Furedi. (I haven't read it, though I know the style - erect a giant straw man from the flimsiest of materials drawn from petty discontents and attack it in such a way as to make the prejudices of the Daily Mail seem reasonable to people who should know better.)
The mood is conservative and that is not surprising. Preserving our work from the destruction wreaked on it by neo-liberal radicals (and yes, Thatcherism in its old and new guises is radical) is in itself a leftist position. It may be defensive, but it is desperately trying to protect and conserve that which is under threat. I am with them all the way. Except...
There is something that leaves me uneasy about defending the status quo when I am critical of much of it. I am uncomfortable about our attempts to defend "vulnerable subjects such as music and history" in terms of transferable skills and employability. I would love to see a more aggressive stance against the cuts, which would pose an alternative vision of the university as something more socially open, egalitarian and with lifelong learning at its heart. I would like to feel that universities really do want to widen participation, to become part of their local communities and not to be diploma factories for middle class school-leavers.
For now, the barricades will have to be mounted to try and protect what we have and latter day Tony Blairs will be able to label us as "the forces of conservatism" as they grumble about the scars on their backs caused by our, no doubt failed, attempts to preserve some of the things we value. University adult education has already been decimated, we wait to see what will be next. A list of cuts that includes job losses, raised part-time fees, campus closures and reduced bursaries does not bode well. And here is the irony:
The policy adopted by the government is in stark contrast to the response in the US where President Obama this week proposed a 31% increase in education spending for next year in order to combat unemployment and develop skills.