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It’s time to abolish the university Let’s stop pretending academic study is worthwhile

What's the point? (Tom Stoddart/Getty Images)

What's the point? (Tom Stoddart/Getty Images)


August 16, 2023   6 mins

A judge in a libel case once warned the jury not to award “Mickey Mouse damages”, plunging them into confusion over whether he meant ridiculously large or ridiculously small. The Government, however, has no such doubts about what counts as a Mickey Mouse university degree, and is talking of cutting academic courses with low intellectual content and a poor retention level which are unlikely to land you up as CEO of British Airways. There will be no more PhDs in astrology or ballroom dancing, no more would-be jugglers, lion tamers, water diviners or kissogram workers in cap and gown on Graduation Day.

The problem is that the Government isn’t going far enough. There are lots of respectable academic subjects which could easily be dumped with no discernible loss to the nation. Take history, for example, which someone once described as a set of events which should never have happened. From the An Shun civil war of 8th-century China, which resulted in some 429 million deaths, to the extermination of native Americans, which outdid Mao Zedong’s massacres by a ratio of two to one, history has been, for the most part, a saga of bloodshed and brutality. Peace and justice have never reigned over any considerable part of the globe for any considerable length of time. What kindness and compassion have flourished have been largely confined to the private or civic sphere. Most men and women have lived lives of hard labour for the benefit of a few.

To set our students loose on this chronicle of hacking and gouging is rash in the extreme. Many of them are pretty fragile already, and opening a history book can only deepen their anxiety. We need bright-eyed, forward-looking citizens, not depressive types overwhelmed by the nightmare of history. As the Victorians knew, there is a well-trodden path from dejection to political disaffection, which is why what we read should cheer us up, rather than cast us down. Most civilisations are the fruit of invasion, occupation or extermination; but, as Edmund Burke points out, they thrive by repressing this original sin and coming gradually to forget it. If we are to succeed at all, then, we must jettison the past. Oblivion is the basis of achievement.

Much the same goes for the study of literature. Before Thomas Hardy came to write in the late 19th century, there was scarcely a novelist in Britain whose work concluded on a downbeat note. Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is one of the few bold exceptions. From Henry Fielding to Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, happy endings are more or less obligatory. Why? Because there has to be somewhere in the world where the virtuous reap their reward and the wicked get their comeuppance, and this place is known as a novel. The more predatory and rapacious society grows, the less you will find such justice outside fiction. The fewer happy endings there are in real life, however, the more obtrusive and implausible they became in fiction, so that the typical end of a 20th-century novel is bleak and irresolute.

“After a while, I left the room and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain,” reads the final sentence of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, after the protagonist’s young partner has died before his eyes. So literature, too, is bad for morale. Rather than turning you hopefully towards the practical world, it plunges you morbidly into your own innards. Reading poetry is also bad for your spiritual health. As for plays and novels, there’s something peculiarly pointless about spending years, even a whole lifetime, studying people and events that never existed.

At least history has the edge over literature in that respect. Nobody has ever come up with a watertight definition of literature, which suggests how vacuous the whole project really is. Let’s hope the same isn’t true of aeronautical engineering. Besides, you don’t need to be a university student to read poems, plays and novels. Many people do it anyway, in their spare time. They also enjoy a pint occasionally, but they don’t see the need to take a degree in it.

Geography is palpably a non-subject. I was once a fellow of an Oxford college where there were two geographers, one of whom studied the demography of Asian communities in the Midlands. The other was an expert on sand dunes. What kind of coherent discipline is that? A lot of Americans seem to get on perfectly well without knowing where anything is in the world, except when they need to bomb it, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t do the same. In any case, maps give away our location to immigrants and terrorists. They also distort reality, showing Russia and China as imposing tracts of land and the UK as a mere smudge. What this belies is the infinite distance between Russian barbarism and British civility.

There is less need for geography now that we’re out of the EU, and the same applies to modern languages. “Why should I travel?” asked a woman who lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “I’m here already.” We British might say the same, being fortunate enough to live in the birthplace of industry, empire, modernity, liberalism and the world’s greatest playwright. It’s true that the British go abroad for the sun, but climate change ought to abolish this custom in the future, as temperatures here climb to Sicilian levels.

One of the few benefits of climate catastrophe is that we’ll be able to stay at home. There will be no need for continental holidays, and no possibility of them either. It’s true that we’ll die of heat at home instead, but better to pass away in the bosom of your own folk than among people who have never heard of Katie Price.

Theology, meanwhile is a subject without an object. It’s on a level with Ufology and Loch Ness Monster studies. Classics involves highly unpleasant people like Nero and Caligula and at least one former prime minister. Sociology is just a way of dressing up Left-wing ideology in spuriously scientific garb. Politics is a career, not a seminar for eggheads. As for art, you don’t need to know about Raphael and Rembrandt in order to churn out marketable stuff. You don’t even need to have heard of them. Philosophy is a subject for pedants who think they can save people from suicide by pointing out that the grammar of “nothing matters” differs from that of “nothing chatters”. Those bits of science with practical applications are worth preserving, but not those bits that don’t, such as inquiries into quarks, black holes and the lower bowel of the aardvark.

Medicine has its uses, but one wonders how much of it would really be necessary if we overhauled our attitude to life. A little more pride in ourselves, a mite less grousing and negativity, and watch those tumours disappear. Some people make a case for the importance of law; but law is basically a matter of right and wrong actions, and you don’t need to pore over a bunch of mouldy statutes and precedents to know about that. You should have learnt it already from the moral values instilled in you by your parents. What matters is the family hearth, not the lecture hall.

The fact is that all we really need are business schools. Apart from the odd laboratory here and there, we could abolish universities altogether and save ourselves a stupendous amount of money. It’s true that this might leave hordes of young people with time on their hands, but this was never a problem in the days of National Service. In any case, universities are flagrantly self-contradictory institutions. Having being dragged out of the Middle Ages and forced to become efficient, they now look more like Tesco’s head office rather than ivory towers.

They have senior management, formerly known as “professors”, plenty of consumers (once called “students”), an eminently saleable commodity (so-called “knowledge”) and will soon be pricing ideas according to their importance, allowing consumers to decide which ones they can afford. If a course on metaphysics isn’t pulling in the punters, they can launch one on Gambling for Beginners instead. At least one British university discourages academics from keeping books in their offices, given that paper in an electronic age is ridiculously passé. They might as well have parchment and quills.

It’s all very admirable as far as it goes — yet, absurdly, these places don’t have shareholders, and haven’t been able to escape the chill clutches of the state. It’s true that there are one or two private universities around the place, but nobody knows where they are. They should stop hiding away and have the courage of their convictions. Allow the state to have a hand in education and before you know where you are, Keir Starmer will be deciding on the most plausible interpretation of Hamlet, and woe to those who lecture out of line!

Universities have had their day. Let’s stop pretending that some academic courses are garbage while others are worthwhile. Just cut the whole bloody lot of them.


Terry Eagleton is a critic, literary theorist, and UnHerd columnist.


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Pil Grim
Pil Grim
9 months ago

Surprised so many people liked this article. One other commenter said this is The Daily Mash level of satire and they are correct. It’s tiresome, unfunny, predictable and written precisely to defend the departments and courses that are in need of deep reform. I lectured for 4 years at Russell group university. Each cohort had about 20% of students who simply should not have been there – they arrived clueless and duped by inflated A Level results. Another 30% were capable of getting a 2:2 and maybe a low 2:1, but really for all the debt they would accumulate it was not really worth their time. They should have gone straight into admin jobs from A Level. That leaves 50%. The grading system should have been recalibrated to this section of the cohort. Aside from this, and has been mentioned many times, the departmental staff largely suffer from group think. There were maybe 1 or 2 members of staff in my area who were in some sense conservative. The overwhelming concern of all younger/newer members of staff was gender related even though my subject didn’t historically have this as a major area of concern. Part of our responsibilities was to help on various courses with seminar teaching and the standard was to teach critical approaches to texts/ideas e.g. through a set of feminist, Marxist, racial, deconstructionist lenses etc. But here is the stupefying thing, and something that only became truly apparent to me after I left – no one ever taught the students to be critical of those lenses in and of themselves. They are taken as sacred unquestioned methods which reveal the truth of the text, and the truth was usually how the method shows why the texts are ‘problematic’ by a contemporary left wing view of the world. It became apparent to me that virtually the whole of the Humanities runs as a 1 trick pony. You can test this for yourselves by looking at the adverts for departmental seminars. The approach taken will almost always be this: take a small fact or occurrence from the periphery of the subject in question, then simply point out that said fact/occurrence shows us that the dominant view is not only incomplete, but also oppressive to the periphery. Then re-centre the subject on to said periphery as the new standard, thereby overthrowing the old oppressive order of things. They apply this simple methodology to everything. Whole PhDs are based on this basic approach – you could write your own. As long as you find perceived oppression and use obtuse jargon from the Frankfurt School you will be at your graduation ceremony in no time. A rot has set in many years ago, and the kind of reform needed would be the work of a generation. But even then the crisis is really only a microcosm of the larger crisis in the West. We are at an end and no tinkering will fix it. I don’t think there can be any political solutions to what is happening not least because there is too much inertia in the system. The actions required could not be taken (effectively strip non-Russell group unis of their university status, making them focus solely on vocational course as they used to as polytechnics, reduce the numbers going to the Russell Group to say 10-15% of 18 year olds and somehow work towards re-balancing the mix of staff in terms of political and philosophical view points). Sadly though it’s a process that simply has to play out. As with the general crisis, all you can do is preserve what you can and certainly don’t send your own children to university unless they are heading for a very specific career route where the degree is required. The final elephant in the room is that the university sector is now in effect in hock to China. Remove the Chinese students and money from the universities and the vast majority are instantly bankrupt. This is not an exaggeration.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

The best thing about Eagleton’s article is that it provoked this response.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I suppose it would be too much to hope for Mr Eagleton to respond to the comment

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Thank you. I usually try not to comment, but I couldn’t let this one go.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I suppose it would be too much to hope for Mr Eagleton to respond to the comment

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Thank you. I usually try not to comment, but I couldn’t let this one go.

Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim
Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago

I read your piece. Pretty much exactly my thoughts, maybe I should join the SDP!

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

They would be delighted to have you. Email William Clouston 🙂

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

They would be delighted to have you. Email William Clouston 🙂

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago

I read your piece. Pretty much exactly my thoughts, maybe I should join the SDP!

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Well said, Pil Grim! There’s an article to be written on the need for university reform, and your comment contains the essence of that article, while Terry Eagleton’s ‘satire’ is, as you say, feeble in the extreme, and fails to make the points that need to be made. Admission standards have dropped, admitting students to university who lack the motivation and ability to profit from the experience, a situation which is propped up by dropping assessment standards and providing extra help to shovel the weaker students through their courses. Rigorous technical and vocational education has been sidelined by the turning of polytechnics into universities, often focusing on courses with little academic merit and less utility. As we are seeing now, the need to sustain the bloated university sector is leading to an unhealthy reliance on international students’ fees to balance the financial books. The failure to ensure that all such students have a level of English and of knowledge and study skills to cope effectively with their courses further degrades the value of those courses and drives standards down further. Eagleton’s weak article seems to be taking aim at conservatives who harrumph at the uselessness of universities in general. He failed to notice the real target.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

Yes, thanks you, he has straw-manned the problem in question. No one seriously wants the Universities to be closed down, but they do now need deep and urgent reform of the kind that I think is sadly not going to happen precisely because of the massive challenge it would represent. It’s incredibly frustrating to be able to see what the solution is (for the most part) and yet it is a solution that cannot be delivered.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

Yes, thanks you, he has straw-manned the problem in question. No one seriously wants the Universities to be closed down, but they do now need deep and urgent reform of the kind that I think is sadly not going to happen precisely because of the massive challenge it would represent. It’s incredibly frustrating to be able to see what the solution is (for the most part) and yet it is a solution that cannot be delivered.

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

In the Re-Centering portion, you’re describing the “Transformational” Hermetic Dialectic (Social Alchemy). Its Gramsci’s Long March basically using Nudge Theory via Institutional Capture to slowly and then rapidly reorient Norms.

Take two Binaries- the Dominant Perspective (Normal) and Marginalized Perspective (Abnormal). Deconstruct, IE relentlessly critique the Dominant Perspective until over time the perspectives flip flop; the Abnormal becomes the Normal and nobody knows where they are.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Yes – the method has in effect taken over multiple disciplines, with most practitioners not even knowing that is the case. They just assume that’s what academics are meant to do.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Sounds rather like the triumph of slave morality in On the Genealogy of Morals . . .

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Yes – the method has in effect taken over multiple disciplines, with most practitioners not even knowing that is the case. They just assume that’s what academics are meant to do.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Sounds rather like the triumph of slave morality in On the Genealogy of Morals . . .

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago

Exactly.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago

Exactly.

Eric Mader
Eric Mader
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Bravo, Pil Grim. Eagleton’s piece here is a painful demonstration of the maxim: Just because you have a keyboard and a free afternoon doesn’t mean you should type.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

You’re the one whom Unherd should be paying, not Eagleton.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Ha, thank you

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Ha, thank you

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Your response is a better article than what was published. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Thank you!

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Thank you!

Middle March
Middle March
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Yes, it’s the same in American universities. Marxist-style materialism is passed off as objective thinking. It’s so prevalent that it’s not even seen as a point of view.

Not even the professors themselves understand any alternative that might involve more expansive, provocative questioning related to faith vs. reason, the community vs the individual, the meaning of citizenship, free will vs determinism, the role of science, etc., etc. What students get is formulaic, and they come out dull.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

My oldest child is off to university this year and this comment saddens me because it is true. I believe it is a waste of her time and my money. I used to genuinely believe in the value of a university education – but don’t any longer. However the job market remains geared towards degrees – no matter how much weaker the product is now.

jane baker
jane baker
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

In another place I’ve just read of a degreeless adult who after many years of experience is doing the job and training new recruits with degrees that this person might have walked into 30 years before with a degree but they got life experience instead. The only difference is that they earn a slighter lower wage than if they’d had that degree but thats not about merit it’s purely down to the laws and statues of the company. So that does suggest that the main use of getting a degree now is that if you attain a certain career level you’ll get more pay than your equally competent but degree-less colleague.

jane baker
jane baker
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

In another place I’ve just read of a degreeless adult who after many years of experience is doing the job and training new recruits with degrees that this person might have walked into 30 years before with a degree but they got life experience instead. The only difference is that they earn a slighter lower wage than if they’d had that degree but thats not about merit it’s purely down to the laws and statues of the company. So that does suggest that the main use of getting a degree now is that if you attain a certain career level you’ll get more pay than your equally competent but degree-less colleague.

andy cramp
andy cramp
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

So your views after 4 years at some point or another in history at an unnamed RG institution is then extended into the whole sector? You wouldn’t get away with that in any PhD I supervised.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  andy cramp

Well, a comment isn’t a PhD is it? Although given how short PhD’s are these days perhaps that is the length of work you are now used to marking to make someone a doctor… More seriously: 4 (recent-ish) years of teaching, 6 years of PhD study (PT), plus talking to many other academics from different departments and institutions, does in fact give a pretty good picture. And the indebtedness to China of the RG is absolutely the case. You only need to tally up the numbers. I know of one institution which would be in an immediate 100 million pound + deficit if the Chinese students alone were not there.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago
Reply to  andy cramp

Well, a comment isn’t a PhD is it? Although given how short PhD’s are these days perhaps that is the length of work you are now used to marking to make someone a doctor… More seriously: 4 (recent-ish) years of teaching, 6 years of PhD study (PT), plus talking to many other academics from different departments and institutions, does in fact give a pretty good picture. And the indebtedness to China of the RG is absolutely the case. You only need to tally up the numbers. I know of one institution which would be in an immediate 100 million pound + deficit if the Chinese students alone were not there.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Very well said, PG. I suspect we are dealing with a system that cannot be fixed, at least not by operating internally through the rules and structure of the system. Something more akin to a revolution is needed– perhaps separating the hard sciences and engineering into polytechnics that remain pure polytechnics, and abolishing the other departments or letting them shrink into irrelevance. The university culture cannot be changed if the current administrators, woke faculty and political officers remain in position.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

I remember the moment all British Polytechnics were elevated into Universities. Wholesale educational inflation, like introducing a PhD in secretarial science. Once in a while critical theory has its moments, such as replacing racial groups by racialized groups, but for the life of me I cannot think of any useful result of Wittgensteinian studies or analytic philosophy, apart from allowing some tweedy types some intellectual wanking. As to Chinese students, a few years ago I met a freshly minted Chinese MBA, product of a former Polytechnic. He literally could not put two coherent English sentences together. At least in the USA there are some studies of the effectiveness of academic specialties. While Eagleton is getting his wish and the Humanities are dying, Business Studies are flourishing. However, most highly paid business analysts are still incapable of picking stock market winners, as the proverbial chimpanzee stock picker will beat them. Fortunately there will soon be an end to all this suffering. No, not the trend for Britain to be ruled by its former colonial subjects, though that is a surprisingly understudied subject, but soon AI will nullify the need for intellectual wankers by producing tsunamis of pseudo-intellectual congees. In the meantime we will be short of bricklayers and electricians.

Nathan Sapio
Nathan Sapio
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Wow spot on, especially in not applying criticality to critical theory

Allan Swartz
Allan Swartz
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

This article was a breath of fresh air to me. I graduated from a third rate university in New York, during the latter part of the 60’s. I majored in advertising and marketing and graduated with a BBA degree. I can honestly say, that over the 4 years, there wasn’t one professor who inspired me. Everything I learned, I learned in the real world, after graduation.

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Thank you for your comment. This was Gramsci writing in 1915:
“Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity. … In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”
It has been a long march but they got there. Lord help us.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

The best thing about Eagleton’s article is that it provoked this response.

Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim
Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Well said, Pil Grim! There’s an article to be written on the need for university reform, and your comment contains the essence of that article, while Terry Eagleton’s ‘satire’ is, as you say, feeble in the extreme, and fails to make the points that need to be made. Admission standards have dropped, admitting students to university who lack the motivation and ability to profit from the experience, a situation which is propped up by dropping assessment standards and providing extra help to shovel the weaker students through their courses. Rigorous technical and vocational education has been sidelined by the turning of polytechnics into universities, often focusing on courses with little academic merit and less utility. As we are seeing now, the need to sustain the bloated university sector is leading to an unhealthy reliance on international students’ fees to balance the financial books. The failure to ensure that all such students have a level of English and of knowledge and study skills to cope effectively with their courses further degrades the value of those courses and drives standards down further. Eagleton’s weak article seems to be taking aim at conservatives who harrumph at the uselessness of universities in general. He failed to notice the real target.

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

In the Re-Centering portion, you’re describing the “Transformational” Hermetic Dialectic (Social Alchemy). Its Gramsci’s Long March basically using Nudge Theory via Institutional Capture to slowly and then rapidly reorient Norms.

Take two Binaries- the Dominant Perspective (Normal) and Marginalized Perspective (Abnormal). Deconstruct, IE relentlessly critique the Dominant Perspective until over time the perspectives flip flop; the Abnormal becomes the Normal and nobody knows where they are.

Eric Mader
Eric Mader
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Bravo, Pil Grim. Eagleton’s piece here is a painful demonstration of the maxim: Just because you have a keyboard and a free afternoon doesn’t mean you should type.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

You’re the one whom Unherd should be paying, not Eagleton.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Your response is a better article than what was published. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

Middle March
Middle March
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Yes, it’s the same in American universities. Marxist-style materialism is passed off as objective thinking. It’s so prevalent that it’s not even seen as a point of view.

Not even the professors themselves understand any alternative that might involve more expansive, provocative questioning related to faith vs. reason, the community vs the individual, the meaning of citizenship, free will vs determinism, the role of science, etc., etc. What students get is formulaic, and they come out dull.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

My oldest child is off to university this year and this comment saddens me because it is true. I believe it is a waste of her time and my money. I used to genuinely believe in the value of a university education – but don’t any longer. However the job market remains geared towards degrees – no matter how much weaker the product is now.

andy cramp
andy cramp
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

So your views after 4 years at some point or another in history at an unnamed RG institution is then extended into the whole sector? You wouldn’t get away with that in any PhD I supervised.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Very well said, PG. I suspect we are dealing with a system that cannot be fixed, at least not by operating internally through the rules and structure of the system. Something more akin to a revolution is needed– perhaps separating the hard sciences and engineering into polytechnics that remain pure polytechnics, and abolishing the other departments or letting them shrink into irrelevance. The university culture cannot be changed if the current administrators, woke faculty and political officers remain in position.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

I remember the moment all British Polytechnics were elevated into Universities. Wholesale educational inflation, like introducing a PhD in secretarial science. Once in a while critical theory has its moments, such as replacing racial groups by racialized groups, but for the life of me I cannot think of any useful result of Wittgensteinian studies or analytic philosophy, apart from allowing some tweedy types some intellectual wanking. As to Chinese students, a few years ago I met a freshly minted Chinese MBA, product of a former Polytechnic. He literally could not put two coherent English sentences together. At least in the USA there are some studies of the effectiveness of academic specialties. While Eagleton is getting his wish and the Humanities are dying, Business Studies are flourishing. However, most highly paid business analysts are still incapable of picking stock market winners, as the proverbial chimpanzee stock picker will beat them. Fortunately there will soon be an end to all this suffering. No, not the trend for Britain to be ruled by its former colonial subjects, though that is a surprisingly understudied subject, but soon AI will nullify the need for intellectual wankers by producing tsunamis of pseudo-intellectual congees. In the meantime we will be short of bricklayers and electricians.

Nathan Sapio
Nathan Sapio
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Wow spot on, especially in not applying criticality to critical theory

Allan Swartz
Allan Swartz
8 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

This article was a breath of fresh air to me. I graduated from a third rate university in New York, during the latter part of the 60’s. I majored in advertising and marketing and graduated with a BBA degree. I can honestly say, that over the 4 years, there wasn’t one professor who inspired me. Everything I learned, I learned in the real world, after graduation.

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

Thank you for your comment. This was Gramsci writing in 1915:
“Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity. … In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”
It has been a long march but they got there. Lord help us.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
9 months ago

Surprised so many people liked this article. One other commenter said this is The Daily Mash level of satire and they are correct. It’s tiresome, unfunny, predictable and written precisely to defend the departments and courses that are in need of deep reform. I lectured for 4 years at Russell group university. Each cohort had about 20% of students who simply should not have been there – they arrived clueless and duped by inflated A Level results. Another 30% were capable of getting a 2:2 and maybe a low 2:1, but really for all the debt they would accumulate it was not really worth their time. They should have gone straight into admin jobs from A Level. That leaves 50%. The grading system should have been recalibrated to this section of the cohort. Aside from this, and has been mentioned many times, the departmental staff largely suffer from group think. There were maybe 1 or 2 members of staff in my area who were in some sense conservative. The overwhelming concern of all younger/newer members of staff was gender related even though my subject didn’t historically have this as a major area of concern. Part of our responsibilities was to help on various courses with seminar teaching and the standard was to teach critical approaches to texts/ideas e.g. through a set of feminist, Marxist, racial, deconstructionist lenses etc. But here is the stupefying thing, and something that only became truly apparent to me after I left – no one ever taught the students to be critical of those lenses in and of themselves. They are taken as sacred unquestioned methods which reveal the truth of the text, and the truth was usually how the method shows why the texts are ‘problematic’ by a contemporary left wing view of the world. It became apparent to me that virtually the whole of the Humanities runs as a 1 trick pony. You can test this for yourselves by looking at the adverts for departmental seminars. The approach taken will almost always be this: take a small fact or occurrence from the periphery of the subject in question, then simply point out that said fact/occurrence shows us that the dominant view is not only incomplete, but also oppressive to the periphery. Then re-centre the subject on to said periphery as the new standard, thereby overthrowing the old oppressive order of things. They apply this simple methodology to everything. Whole PhDs are based on this basic approach – you could write your own. As long as you find perceived oppression and use obtuse jargon from the Frankfurt School you will be at your graduation ceremony in no time. A rot has set in many years ago, and the kind of reform needed would be the work of a generation. But even then the crisis is really only a microcosm of the larger crisis in the West. We are at an end and no tinkering will fix it. I don’t think there can be any political solutions to what is happening not least because there is too much inertia in the system. The actions required could not be taken (effectively strip non-Russell group unis of their university status, making them focus solely on vocational course as they used to as polytechnics, reduce the numbers going to the Russell Group to say 10-15% of 18 year olds and somehow work towards re-balancing the mix of staff in terms of political and philosophical view points). Sadly though it’s a process that simply has to play out. As with the general crisis, all you can do is preserve what you can and certainly don’t send your own children to university unless they are heading for a very specific career route where the degree is required. The final elephant in the room is that the university sector is now in effect in hock to China. Remove the Chinese students and money from the universities and the vast majority are instantly bankrupt. This is not an exaggeration.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
9 months ago

Great piece of satire for sure. Hate to be Debbie Downer, but there are plenty of uni courses that can be cut – basically anything ending in the word studies. University admissions are much too easy now, negating much of the value of a degree. We need more plumbers and electricians.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I agree with all of that. Stop encouraging people without the aptitude or even the inclination to excel in higher education to go to university anyway. Strengthen vocational training and career preparation for those so inclined or constituted beginning in high school. North American schools needn’t imitate the quite severely stratified systems in Germany or England, but we can stand to take a page or two from their well-studied figurative books.

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The problem, as we should well know by now, is that the point of universities these days is indoctrination, not education, where left-leaning faculty and administration can inculcate their anti-western, culturally suicidal doctrines into young people, who will then go out into the world and reliably vote for establishment politicians who talk about diversity, inclusion, trigger words, microaggressions, and all that other nonsense. Sending half or more of high school graduates into vocational training, apprenticeships, or simply directly into the many many clerical and sales related jobs that don’t require much training at all, would be perceived (probably accurately) as handing the future to the unenlightened troglodytes that already populate those professions and flock to populist candidates. Better a compliant mob of overeducated, underemployed drones who will toe the line than a productive and industrious workforce forever beyond the reach of the social programming necessary for the one world globalists to reach their mystical utopia.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Jolly
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

There is some truth in what you say, but I find most of it to be wildly overstated. Not every faculty member or student, even in the target disciplines (those most ideologically fraught and corrupted), falls into your basket of woke deplorables, not even close. To believe that there is no support for or openness to high-school age vocational training among academics or those broadly associated with the left is to succumb to a biased or ideologically-penetrated tunnel-vision of your own.
The so-called conservatism that wants to explode every long-established institution from the FBI to the Academy has gotten way out of control.
https://www.usnews.com/education/k12/articles/the-benefits-of-career-and-technical-education-programs-for-high-schoolers

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I admit my hyperbole went a bit over the top. I’ve been complaining about one form or another of educational indoctrination since I was a high school student. My passion for the topic often exceeds my better judgement. I also was wrong to single out the left, who are most guilty of this recently, but certainly not exclusively nor historically. I object more broadly to ALL public education beyond basic reading and mathematics as basically unnecessary and basically a form of government sponsored cultural indoctrination whose goal always was, with few exceptions, to produce compliant obedient citizens rather than independent critical thinkers, whatever ideology the government happened to favor at the time. I view it as an inferior collectivist undertaking that has found support in many disparate political persuasions over time because of its massive convenience and the advantage it offers ruling classes to inculcate their values with the children of the populace. The idea was first pitched to and sold to governments as that and supported by industrialists who wanted a particular set of skills and knowledge in their workers, enough knowledge to be productive workers and save the industrialists the cost of training, but not enough to have them question why they do all the work while somebody else collects the profit. Of course, nobody remembers that. Moreover, objectively speaking, how has eighty or so years of expanded public education improved our society in any meaningful way? The generations who built America into what it is, won two World Wars, and set the boundaries that contained Communism did so without an extensive public education. The most positive social developments of the past half century, such as the civil rights movement, came out of the efforts of the least educated and the most radical. Since then, the American education system has grown corrupt and ineffective at its stated purpose. I viewed it at as a thinly veiled exercise in cultural indoctrination while I was a student in it, and I have seen nothing that justifies changing that viewpoint, and in fact it’s gotten much worse than it was in my time. I suppose I’m one of those out of control conservatives (I consider myself libertarian actually), who would gut most of the federal bureaucracy to a degree far greater than even most staunch Trumpists. My problem with Trump isn’t that he goes to far, but that he doesn’t go nearly far enough, and that he’s a horrible man, a womanizing lech, a corrupt opportunist whose only real political interest is his own advancement and glorification, and an incompetent buffoon besides. I realize that my belief is quite radical and not shared by most fellow citizens, and being a believer in the democratic process even when I don’t agree with the results, I accept the reality that marginal improvement of a bad system is probably the best I can realistically hope for, and the article you mention points out the way I think public education should be going, if the idea of doing away with it entirely is too radical.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Jolly
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

A fair follow-up and thanks for the clarifications. I share a portion of your viewpoint. I think basic civic awareness and “three Rs plus” public education needs to happen even if its shallow, shabby, and conformist in nature. Incremental improvements are better than nothing, and as you say perhaps all we can hope for under the all the current circumstances.
I think the average American citizen is a bit undereducated–including many with doctorates in some genre of Grievance Studies–often with an characteristically American combination of maverick attitude and actual conformity.
I respect your genuine independence of mind and willingness to admit mitigating and balancing factors, even when they are just part of an overall mess. And at least you haven’t blinded yourself to Trump’s low character in the way that most Evangelicals have: as long as he gives them (3!) anti-abortion judges and holds the Bible on TV, upside down or not, their objections melt away.
I have some libertarian leanings but I’m more of a classical liberal, who believes in a non-flimsy “safety net” and opposes the full for-profit privatization of, for example, prisons and hospitals.
Try not to get too exasperated with the state of the nation and world (that’s a self-reminder too) because intelligent, fair-minded non-joiners like yourself are not superabundant these days, to put it mildly.
Now I have to let my subscription lapse for a good while; my attention has become too divided, my mood too influenced by the ups and downs and back and forth bellowings of the (un)herd, a noise I’ve contributed to many times.
Drive as many of these well-meaning flocked-together humans toward fresh water as you can, Steve. A bit of a rude metaphor, but that’s my parting shot.

Last edited 8 months ago by AJ Mac
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“intelligent, fair-minded non-joiners like yourself are not superabundant these days, to put it mildly.”
I have noticed. A wise man tempers expectations with a heavy dose of reality.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“intelligent, fair-minded non-joiners like yourself are not superabundant these days, to put it mildly.”
I have noticed. A wise man tempers expectations with a heavy dose of reality.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

I share your view of Trump. As far as I can see, the main difference between him and Boris Johnson is that the latter has lost his comb and can’t be bothered to replace it.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
8 months ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

He knighted his barber…

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
8 months ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

He knighted his barber…

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

A fair follow-up and thanks for the clarifications. I share a portion of your viewpoint. I think basic civic awareness and “three Rs plus” public education needs to happen even if its shallow, shabby, and conformist in nature. Incremental improvements are better than nothing, and as you say perhaps all we can hope for under the all the current circumstances.
I think the average American citizen is a bit undereducated–including many with doctorates in some genre of Grievance Studies–often with an characteristically American combination of maverick attitude and actual conformity.
I respect your genuine independence of mind and willingness to admit mitigating and balancing factors, even when they are just part of an overall mess. And at least you haven’t blinded yourself to Trump’s low character in the way that most Evangelicals have: as long as he gives them (3!) anti-abortion judges and holds the Bible on TV, upside down or not, their objections melt away.
I have some libertarian leanings but I’m more of a classical liberal, who believes in a non-flimsy “safety net” and opposes the full for-profit privatization of, for example, prisons and hospitals.
Try not to get too exasperated with the state of the nation and world (that’s a self-reminder too) because intelligent, fair-minded non-joiners like yourself are not superabundant these days, to put it mildly.
Now I have to let my subscription lapse for a good while; my attention has become too divided, my mood too influenced by the ups and downs and back and forth bellowings of the (un)herd, a noise I’ve contributed to many times.
Drive as many of these well-meaning flocked-together humans toward fresh water as you can, Steve. A bit of a rude metaphor, but that’s my parting shot.

Last edited 8 months ago by AJ Mac
Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

I share your view of Trump. As far as I can see, the main difference between him and Boris Johnson is that the latter has lost his comb and can’t be bothered to replace it.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I admit my hyperbole went a bit over the top. I’ve been complaining about one form or another of educational indoctrination since I was a high school student. My passion for the topic often exceeds my better judgement. I also was wrong to single out the left, who are most guilty of this recently, but certainly not exclusively nor historically. I object more broadly to ALL public education beyond basic reading and mathematics as basically unnecessary and basically a form of government sponsored cultural indoctrination whose goal always was, with few exceptions, to produce compliant obedient citizens rather than independent critical thinkers, whatever ideology the government happened to favor at the time. I view it as an inferior collectivist undertaking that has found support in many disparate political persuasions over time because of its massive convenience and the advantage it offers ruling classes to inculcate their values with the children of the populace. The idea was first pitched to and sold to governments as that and supported by industrialists who wanted a particular set of skills and knowledge in their workers, enough knowledge to be productive workers and save the industrialists the cost of training, but not enough to have them question why they do all the work while somebody else collects the profit. Of course, nobody remembers that. Moreover, objectively speaking, how has eighty or so years of expanded public education improved our society in any meaningful way? The generations who built America into what it is, won two World Wars, and set the boundaries that contained Communism did so without an extensive public education. The most positive social developments of the past half century, such as the civil rights movement, came out of the efforts of the least educated and the most radical. Since then, the American education system has grown corrupt and ineffective at its stated purpose. I viewed it at as a thinly veiled exercise in cultural indoctrination while I was a student in it, and I have seen nothing that justifies changing that viewpoint, and in fact it’s gotten much worse than it was in my time. I suppose I’m one of those out of control conservatives (I consider myself libertarian actually), who would gut most of the federal bureaucracy to a degree far greater than even most staunch Trumpists. My problem with Trump isn’t that he goes to far, but that he doesn’t go nearly far enough, and that he’s a horrible man, a womanizing lech, a corrupt opportunist whose only real political interest is his own advancement and glorification, and an incompetent buffoon besides. I realize that my belief is quite radical and not shared by most fellow citizens, and being a believer in the democratic process even when I don’t agree with the results, I accept the reality that marginal improvement of a bad system is probably the best I can realistically hope for, and the article you mention points out the way I think public education should be going, if the idea of doing away with it entirely is too radical.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Jolly
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

There is some truth in what you say, but I find most of it to be wildly overstated. Not every faculty member or student, even in the target disciplines (those most ideologically fraught and corrupted), falls into your basket of woke deplorables, not even close. To believe that there is no support for or openness to high-school age vocational training among academics or those broadly associated with the left is to succumb to a biased or ideologically-penetrated tunnel-vision of your own.
The so-called conservatism that wants to explode every long-established institution from the FBI to the Academy has gotten way out of control.
https://www.usnews.com/education/k12/articles/the-benefits-of-career-and-technical-education-programs-for-high-schoolers

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The problem, as we should well know by now, is that the point of universities these days is indoctrination, not education, where left-leaning faculty and administration can inculcate their anti-western, culturally suicidal doctrines into young people, who will then go out into the world and reliably vote for establishment politicians who talk about diversity, inclusion, trigger words, microaggressions, and all that other nonsense. Sending half or more of high school graduates into vocational training, apprenticeships, or simply directly into the many many clerical and sales related jobs that don’t require much training at all, would be perceived (probably accurately) as handing the future to the unenlightened troglodytes that already populate those professions and flock to populist candidates. Better a compliant mob of overeducated, underemployed drones who will toe the line than a productive and industrious workforce forever beyond the reach of the social programming necessary for the one world globalists to reach their mystical utopia.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Jolly
Philip Stott
Philip Stott
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Hmm, I found it unbearably smug and self-satisfied.
Maybe I’m just in a bad mood today.

AC Harper
AC Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Arguably you could split tertiary education up again into Universities, Technical Colleges and Art Colleges. The academic stuff (mostly hard sciences) would remain with the Universities and all the “* studies” could be parcelled out into the colleges.
This might also reduce the number of PhDs which might be no bad thing.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I agree with all of that. Stop encouraging people without the aptitude or even the inclination to excel in higher education to go to university anyway. Strengthen vocational training and career preparation for those so inclined or constituted beginning in high school. North American schools needn’t imitate the quite severely stratified systems in Germany or England, but we can stand to take a page or two from their well-studied figurative books.

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Philip Stott
Philip Stott
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Hmm, I found it unbearably smug and self-satisfied.
Maybe I’m just in a bad mood today.

AC Harper
AC Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Arguably you could split tertiary education up again into Universities, Technical Colleges and Art Colleges. The academic stuff (mostly hard sciences) would remain with the Universities and all the “* studies” could be parcelled out into the colleges.
This might also reduce the number of PhDs which might be no bad thing.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
9 months ago

Great piece of satire for sure. Hate to be Debbie Downer, but there are plenty of uni courses that can be cut – basically anything ending in the word studies. University admissions are much too easy now, negating much of the value of a degree. We need more plumbers and electricians.

Gregory Sims
Gregory Sims
9 months ago

It’s surely a mere coincidence that in the course of his satirical romp, Prof. Eagleton “neglects” to mention gender “studies” as the most obviously superfluous field of “study” and – in the minds of many – the clearest candidate for cancellation. Here in Germany, there are – according to the most recent count – no fewer than 173 (!) professorships in gender studies. Of course, this figure doesn’t encompass the countless hangers-on: the multitudes of “wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter*innen”, post-doctoral and doctoral students. The already heavily beleaguered German taxpayers could be relieved of a heavy financial burden.

Gregory Sims
Gregory Sims
9 months ago

It’s surely a mere coincidence that in the course of his satirical romp, Prof. Eagleton “neglects” to mention gender “studies” as the most obviously superfluous field of “study” and – in the minds of many – the clearest candidate for cancellation. Here in Germany, there are – according to the most recent count – no fewer than 173 (!) professorships in gender studies. Of course, this figure doesn’t encompass the countless hangers-on: the multitudes of “wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter*innen”, post-doctoral and doctoral students. The already heavily beleaguered German taxpayers could be relieved of a heavy financial burden.

J Bryant
J Bryant
9 months ago

Well done, Professor Eagleton. Many a true word is said in jest.

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
9 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Hmmm. Written by a man who has spent his whole life in academia la la land…

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
9 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yes, excellent. And I think I can identify the Oxford College! Reminds me of my time at my first university job when I joined a Geography Department before I had finished my PhD. I was studying glaciers in Iceland and another young lecturer moved into the next office. Being polite I knocked on his door and said “hello, I’m Stephan and I study glaciers”. He replied “hello I’m Steve and I study vampires and ghosts”. I was taken aback….how could any university department include both a cultural theorist like him and a physical scientist like me? I’m still not sure whether this represent the strength of Geography or its weakness!

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
8 months ago

I was at Oxford when Eagleton turned up. Colleague was an early student. Eagleton taught them IRA songs.

And we fund him and his life of indolence

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

Was he announcing the birth of post – colonial studies? Even now he can’t bring himself to satirise or speak negatively of this body of knowledge .

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

Was he announcing the birth of post – colonial studies? Even now he can’t bring himself to satirise or speak negatively of this body of knowledge .

William Murphy
William Murphy
8 months ago

I recall my geography teacher when I was thirteen years old. He explained that “Geography” could include almost anything – geology, economics, history, sociology (pattern of human settlements), etc. Why did these activities not take place under the proper departments? I guess that geography provided a different unifying perspective, if you could justify it at all.

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
8 months ago

I was at Oxford when Eagleton turned up. Colleague was an early student. Eagleton taught them IRA songs.

And we fund him and his life of indolence

William Murphy
William Murphy
8 months ago

I recall my geography teacher when I was thirteen years old. He explained that “Geography” could include almost anything – geology, economics, history, sociology (pattern of human settlements), etc. Why did these activities not take place under the proper departments? I guess that geography provided a different unifying perspective, if you could justify it at all.

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
9 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Hmmm. Written by a man who has spent his whole life in academia la la land…

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
9 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yes, excellent. And I think I can identify the Oxford College! Reminds me of my time at my first university job when I joined a Geography Department before I had finished my PhD. I was studying glaciers in Iceland and another young lecturer moved into the next office. Being polite I knocked on his door and said “hello, I’m Stephan and I study glaciers”. He replied “hello I’m Steve and I study vampires and ghosts”. I was taken aback….how could any university department include both a cultural theorist like him and a physical scientist like me? I’m still not sure whether this represent the strength of Geography or its weakness!

J Bryant
J Bryant
9 months ago

Well done, Professor Eagleton. Many a true word is said in jest.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago

At least one British university discourages academics from keeping books in their offices, given that paper in an electronic age is ridiculously passé.

A few years ago I attended a meeting at the Business College I taught at where an administrator requested that we stopped giving reading assignments because students don’t read books any more. I don’t know. Maybe universities have had their time.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I do think bright and determined autodidacts will continue to have an increasing presence and cultural influence. For individual self-starters, this may or may not involve the use of many physical books, and I think the tactile engagement with the codex that many have argued as indispensable to true learning may not be as critical as they’ve claimed–at least for those that are younger that both of us.
But I think there’s a certain scale and kind of research–some of it good–for which the university will remain necessary, well into the near future at least.

David Giles
David Giles
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Good! Terry Eagleton should be discouraged from reading.

William Murphy
William Murphy
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I love the justification for abandoning reading assignments. Another justification would be that requiring students to read is cruel discrimination against the illiterate or the large number with English as a second language. It is difficult to tell what is “real life” or a merciless piss-take any more.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I do think bright and determined autodidacts will continue to have an increasing presence and cultural influence. For individual self-starters, this may or may not involve the use of many physical books, and I think the tactile engagement with the codex that many have argued as indispensable to true learning may not be as critical as they’ve claimed–at least for those that are younger that both of us.
But I think there’s a certain scale and kind of research–some of it good–for which the university will remain necessary, well into the near future at least.

David Giles
David Giles
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Good! Terry Eagleton should be discouraged from reading.

William Murphy
William Murphy
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I love the justification for abandoning reading assignments. Another justification would be that requiring students to read is cruel discrimination against the illiterate or the large number with English as a second language. It is difficult to tell what is “real life” or a merciless piss-take any more.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago

At least one British university discourages academics from keeping books in their offices, given that paper in an electronic age is ridiculously passé.

A few years ago I attended a meeting at the Business College I taught at where an administrator requested that we stopped giving reading assignments because students don’t read books any more. I don’t know. Maybe universities have had their time.

Rip Durham
Rip Durham
9 months ago

I do have to confess: when I first started reading this article my hackles rose. “What the @&$% is this?” Then, I realized it was satire. That may make me an idiot, but I was laughing by the end. Well done, Eagleton.
Although if it turns out I was wrong, I’ll wipe the egg off my face, make a ham omelet with it, and go back to my garden, hoping the salt content of my tears doesn’t kill my lettuce seedlings.

Rip Durham
Rip Durham
9 months ago

I do have to confess: when I first started reading this article my hackles rose. “What the @&$% is this?” Then, I realized it was satire. That may make me an idiot, but I was laughing by the end. Well done, Eagleton.
Although if it turns out I was wrong, I’ll wipe the egg off my face, make a ham omelet with it, and go back to my garden, hoping the salt content of my tears doesn’t kill my lettuce seedlings.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago

Good piece (speaking as an ex-academic).
However, AI is going to finish off the university; in a couple of years’ time, serious job losses are going to start. Why go to university and acquire vast debt when there will be no jobs at the end of it?
Perhaps the fees will be dropped, though, and the universities retained, for mandatory indoctrination purposes, and as ‘re-education’ camps.
Since Pluckrose and Lindsay’s ‘Cynical Theories’, we jest about getting rid of anything with ‘studies’ in its name, but my fear is that these may be the only courses that are retained.

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

In May UnHerd screened The Reformers – a documentary showing Boghossian, Pluckrose and Lindsay pranking the universities with phoney studies papers consisting of pseudo-profound gobbledegook. All very satirical and amusing. A Q&A session followed the screening and a rather complacent audience seemed convinced that this type of ridicule would do serious damage to the purveyors of Woke now dominating our glorious institutions of higher learning. Legions of Woke professors would be shaken out of their foolishness. Students would be offered education rather than indoctrination and the return to sanity would begin.
Fat chance!

Last edited 9 months ago by N Satori
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

I’d be willing to bet they will not be “finished off” in 75 years time (except in the oversold sense that they are already “doomed” and “finished”) unless other major institutions, like hospitals and prisons, have also fallen away.
Grievance studies will decline in prominence, not continue to rise. That’s my anti-doom prediction for today.

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

In May UnHerd screened The Reformers – a documentary showing Boghossian, Pluckrose and Lindsay pranking the universities with phoney studies papers consisting of pseudo-profound gobbledegook. All very satirical and amusing. A Q&A session followed the screening and a rather complacent audience seemed convinced that this type of ridicule would do serious damage to the purveyors of Woke now dominating our glorious institutions of higher learning. Legions of Woke professors would be shaken out of their foolishness. Students would be offered education rather than indoctrination and the return to sanity would begin.
Fat chance!

Last edited 9 months ago by N Satori
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

I’d be willing to bet they will not be “finished off” in 75 years time (except in the oversold sense that they are already “doomed” and “finished”) unless other major institutions, like hospitals and prisons, have also fallen away.
Grievance studies will decline in prominence, not continue to rise. That’s my anti-doom prediction for today.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago

Good piece (speaking as an ex-academic).
However, AI is going to finish off the university; in a couple of years’ time, serious job losses are going to start. Why go to university and acquire vast debt when there will be no jobs at the end of it?
Perhaps the fees will be dropped, though, and the universities retained, for mandatory indoctrination purposes, and as ‘re-education’ camps.
Since Pluckrose and Lindsay’s ‘Cynical Theories’, we jest about getting rid of anything with ‘studies’ in its name, but my fear is that these may be the only courses that are retained.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

I really enjoyed this version of Eagleton, in his unstintingly satirical mode. Almost Swiftian at times, though far more good-humored and less misanthropic (so not terribly Swift-like I guess).
Though I can sometimes be quite gullible, this passage quite early on laid the project bare:

To set our students loose on this chronicle of hacking and gouging is rash in the extreme. Many of them are pretty fragile already, and opening a history book can only deepen their anxiety. We need bright-eyed, forward-looking citizens, not depressive types overwhelmed by the nightmare of history.

And the entire paragraph that contains this sentence: “A little more pride in ourselves, a mite less grousing and negativity, and watch those tumours disappear”. Certainly persistent thoughts and attitudes can affect wellness or the lack thereof, but this snap-of-the-fingers magical thinking parading as pragmatic common sense is just hilarious.
Well done, Mr. Eagleton, you stubborn old lefty! A robust sense of humour doesn’t make the case for one’s worldview, but with me it goes a long way toward making me like the author, and rollicking good laughs are in somewhat short supply these days.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

I really enjoyed this version of Eagleton, in his unstintingly satirical mode. Almost Swiftian at times, though far more good-humored and less misanthropic (so not terribly Swift-like I guess).
Though I can sometimes be quite gullible, this passage quite early on laid the project bare:

To set our students loose on this chronicle of hacking and gouging is rash in the extreme. Many of them are pretty fragile already, and opening a history book can only deepen their anxiety. We need bright-eyed, forward-looking citizens, not depressive types overwhelmed by the nightmare of history.

And the entire paragraph that contains this sentence: “A little more pride in ourselves, a mite less grousing and negativity, and watch those tumours disappear”. Certainly persistent thoughts and attitudes can affect wellness or the lack thereof, but this snap-of-the-fingers magical thinking parading as pragmatic common sense is just hilarious.
Well done, Mr. Eagleton, you stubborn old lefty! A robust sense of humour doesn’t make the case for one’s worldview, but with me it goes a long way toward making me like the author, and rollicking good laughs are in somewhat short supply these days.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
9 months ago

“the An Shun civil war of 8th-century China, which resulted in some 429 million deaths”
Nonsense. Wikipedia has collated estimates from various sources of the world’s population in the 8th century, ranging from 200-260m. Estimates for casualties of the An Shun revolt range from 13-53m.

Last edited 9 months ago by Richard Craven
Jennie C
Jennie C
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

When did An Lushan become An Shun?
You’re right about the numbers though.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Good catch. I wonder if there are any other inaccuracies in the text.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Possible slander of Nero?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago

Got a laugh out of me there. I suppose it was quite harsh to call him “highly unpleasant”.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago

Got a laugh out of me there. I suppose it was quite harsh to call him “highly unpleasant”.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Possible slander of Nero?

Jennie C
Jennie C
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

When did An Lushan become An Shun?
You’re right about the numbers though.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Good catch. I wonder if there are any other inaccuracies in the text.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
9 months ago

“the An Shun civil war of 8th-century China, which resulted in some 429 million deaths”
Nonsense. Wikipedia has collated estimates from various sources of the world’s population in the 8th century, ranging from 200-260m. Estimates for casualties of the An Shun revolt range from 13-53m.

Last edited 9 months ago by Richard Craven
Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
9 months ago

You left out the key stakeholders, who expect that upon satisfactory completion of their compliance documents they will be allocated an optimal educational outcome.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
9 months ago

You left out the key stakeholders, who expect that upon satisfactory completion of their compliance documents they will be allocated an optimal educational outcome.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago

Personally speaking, I like my satire a tad less heavy-handed and stale. But, I’m sure this stuff will find an audience. Nish Kumar is no doubt penning a glowing review even as we speak, and we can expect the ‘gags’ (may I call them ‘gags’ Terry? I mean they did make me retch a little) to make an appearance in the next iteration of The Mash Report.

Last edited 9 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I’m with you. I enjoyed the read but satirising those starting to realise much modern ‘education’ is either ideological indoctrination at one end, or a frivolous waste of time at the other, doesn’t lessen the validity of their argument.

Because it’s clever and witty it will be much used by those protecting their fiefdoms.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I’m with you. I enjoyed the read but satirising those starting to realise much modern ‘education’ is either ideological indoctrination at one end, or a frivolous waste of time at the other, doesn’t lessen the validity of their argument.

Because it’s clever and witty it will be much used by those protecting their fiefdoms.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago

Personally speaking, I like my satire a tad less heavy-handed and stale. But, I’m sure this stuff will find an audience. Nish Kumar is no doubt penning a glowing review even as we speak, and we can expect the ‘gags’ (may I call them ‘gags’ Terry? I mean they did make me retch a little) to make an appearance in the next iteration of The Mash Report.

Last edited 9 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
9 months ago

You didn’t mention my personal favourite academic bugbear: the PhD in “Creative Writing”, offered by my local university. In that PhD programme, you do some creative writing, then you write a “critical-reflexive essay, in which you situate your creative project in a critical context”. Then they award you a PhD and you get to be called “doctor”.
Abolishing universities is fine, but consider what was in place before universities came into being. We had wandering scholars visiting catherdral schools (is it really any better to have Justin Welby imparting his wisdom?) and monasteries, of which there are but few these days. So the only institutions capable of taking up the slack are the UK’s 2,000 madrassas.

Peter Kwasi-Modo
Peter Kwasi-Modo
9 months ago

You didn’t mention my personal favourite academic bugbear: the PhD in “Creative Writing”, offered by my local university. In that PhD programme, you do some creative writing, then you write a “critical-reflexive essay, in which you situate your creative project in a critical context”. Then they award you a PhD and you get to be called “doctor”.
Abolishing universities is fine, but consider what was in place before universities came into being. We had wandering scholars visiting catherdral schools (is it really any better to have Justin Welby imparting his wisdom?) and monasteries, of which there are but few these days. So the only institutions capable of taking up the slack are the UK’s 2,000 madrassas.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago

Witty article. But I’m afraid the game really is up. People have begun to realise that a degree from anywhere other than a Russell Group university is a waste of time and money. The mass of young people need skills that can’t be duplicated by computers.

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

In the not-too-distant future there will be no skills that cannot be duplicated by computers and their increasingly sophisticated android representatives in the domain of physical action.
In fact, I’m wondering if this rather clumsy (and uncharacteristic) attempt at humour might be the result of Eagleton dabbling wth ChatGPT. You never know.

Last edited 9 months ago by N Satori
Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Well, generally accept what you say, but I think it will be a very long time before robots are able to match the caring skills or live performing arts. Even when they do there will be a premium on human expression.

We need to re-gear education to promote well-being – through manual creativity and sport, for instance.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I had my plumber round today to sort out various things with the pipes and boiler. Had a quick chat with him and he didn’t seem too disheartened about the future. Told me he had started to train up to fit heat pumps until he discovered how useless they are in Scotland. Apparently the UK is also very short of registered gas fitters. He has plenty of work on his books. Don’t think AI will be fitting many central heating systems or bathrooms any time soon.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I had my plumber round today to sort out various things with the pipes and boiler. Had a quick chat with him and he didn’t seem too disheartened about the future. Told me he had started to train up to fit heat pumps until he discovered how useless they are in Scotland. Apparently the UK is also very short of registered gas fitters. He has plenty of work on his books. Don’t think AI will be fitting many central heating systems or bathrooms any time soon.

William Murphy
William Murphy
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Could Unherd simply be trying out its ChatGPT, inputting “Eagleton” as a parameter? How could we tell the difference?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Well, generally accept what you say, but I think it will be a very long time before robots are able to match the caring skills or live performing arts. Even when they do there will be a premium on human expression.

We need to re-gear education to promote well-being – through manual creativity and sport, for instance.

William Murphy
William Murphy
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Could Unherd simply be trying out its ChatGPT, inputting “Eagleton” as a parameter? How could we tell the difference?

N Satori
N Satori
9 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

In the not-too-distant future there will be no skills that cannot be duplicated by computers and their increasingly sophisticated android representatives in the domain of physical action.
In fact, I’m wondering if this rather clumsy (and uncharacteristic) attempt at humour might be the result of Eagleton dabbling wth ChatGPT. You never know.

Last edited 9 months ago by N Satori
Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago

Witty article. But I’m afraid the game really is up. People have begun to realise that a degree from anywhere other than a Russell Group university is a waste of time and money. The mass of young people need skills that can’t be duplicated by computers.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago

Arise, Sir Terence Eagleton, Emeritus Professor of Satirical Studies at Looncaster University.

Your prospective students, sweating over their A-level results (due out tomorrow) can henceforth look forward to real trigger warnings as you fire live rounds at them for daring to turn up for your lectures.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Excellent!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Excellent!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago

Arise, Sir Terence Eagleton, Emeritus Professor of Satirical Studies at Looncaster University.

Your prospective students, sweating over their A-level results (due out tomorrow) can henceforth look forward to real trigger warnings as you fire live rounds at them for daring to turn up for your lectures.

James Kirk
James Kirk
8 months ago

Outside of STEM and medical subjects, University is 3 years wasted in this day and age when they could be learning on the job. History is being manipulated by the left and colleges are indoctrination camps. Look at Engels patronising Marx.

David Hewett
David Hewett
8 months ago
Reply to  James Kirk

Medicine started life as an apprenticeship scheme and was hijacked by the universities a century and a half ago. A new apprenticeship scheme is now starting. In any case, virtually all higher medical training is undertaken whilst working in training jobs and examined outside the University system. Higher medical degrees are just staging posts and nice decorations to have as adornments in the progress towards College or Faculty Memberships and consultant status. Despite the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth, Medicine could survive without Universities, Whether clinical research would is another matter entirely. Registered Nursing would benefit positively if it reverted back, away from requiring a degree.

William Murphy
William Murphy
8 months ago
Reply to  David Hewett

Totally agree with reverting to the SEN/SRN model for nursing qualification. Though I am very biased. Both my late mother and my late aunt earned their SENs at a London hospital between dodging visits from the Luftwaffe.

William Murphy
William Murphy
8 months ago
Reply to  David Hewett

Totally agree with reverting to the SEN/SRN model for nursing qualification. Though I am very biased. Both my late mother and my late aunt earned their SENs at a London hospital between dodging visits from the Luftwaffe.

David Hewett
David Hewett
8 months ago
Reply to  James Kirk

Medicine started life as an apprenticeship scheme and was hijacked by the universities a century and a half ago. A new apprenticeship scheme is now starting. In any case, virtually all higher medical training is undertaken whilst working in training jobs and examined outside the University system. Higher medical degrees are just staging posts and nice decorations to have as adornments in the progress towards College or Faculty Memberships and consultant status. Despite the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth, Medicine could survive without Universities, Whether clinical research would is another matter entirely. Registered Nursing would benefit positively if it reverted back, away from requiring a degree.

James Kirk
James Kirk
8 months ago

Outside of STEM and medical subjects, University is 3 years wasted in this day and age when they could be learning on the job. History is being manipulated by the left and colleges are indoctrination camps. Look at Engels patronising Marx.

Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
8 months ago

TE is clever alright. But he was always part of the problem. The massive over expansion of HE, has meant that disciplines like sociology have become both over specialized and dumbed down – at the same time, not least because so many non-academic and disinterested kids are studying them. Factor in the ideological project of the left (in which TE has been a major protagonist) and the strategy of monopoly and cancellation that has dominated the public sphere for the last 15 years – and the result is both predictable and catastrophic. So Terry: not all universities should be closed down, but probably half of them. Not all disciplines should be defunded, but at least half of them – and more importantly, in the social sciences, all the specious sub-disciplines (gender studies etc), should be folded back into the general subject areas such as sociology or politics. The social sciences have not reached the kind of specificity with the necessary detached models and internal testing procedures and consistent scrutiny….that makes such sub-disciplines coherent and viable. What has happened is the creation of small ideological echo-chambers, immune to external critique and scrutiny, never engaging with other disciplinary perspectives…..soaking up vast streams of public money and delivering nothing in terms of societal well-being.
So localize, re-embed in communities, re-expand technical education, remove incentives that promote individual spatial mobility, incentivize inter-generational family solidarity and co-living, incentivize place-bound community attachments…
Re-create properly elite universities for the small number of people with properly academic sensibilities….most of these should also be place-bound/attached
Make sure that these institutions are highly meritocratic and open
And yes – national service would be an excellent idea

https://sdp.org.uk/sdptalk/a-localist-model-for-higher-education/

Last edited 8 months ago by Stephen Quilley
Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago

Exactly this.

Mike Keohane
Mike Keohane
8 months ago

Speaking of dumbed down, it’s “uninterested” for God’s sake.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
8 months ago

Exactly this.

Mike Keohane
Mike Keohane
8 months ago

Speaking of dumbed down, it’s “uninterested” for God’s sake.

Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
8 months ago

TE is clever alright. But he was always part of the problem. The massive over expansion of HE, has meant that disciplines like sociology have become both over specialized and dumbed down – at the same time, not least because so many non-academic and disinterested kids are studying them. Factor in the ideological project of the left (in which TE has been a major protagonist) and the strategy of monopoly and cancellation that has dominated the public sphere for the last 15 years – and the result is both predictable and catastrophic. So Terry: not all universities should be closed down, but probably half of them. Not all disciplines should be defunded, but at least half of them – and more importantly, in the social sciences, all the specious sub-disciplines (gender studies etc), should be folded back into the general subject areas such as sociology or politics. The social sciences have not reached the kind of specificity with the necessary detached models and internal testing procedures and consistent scrutiny….that makes such sub-disciplines coherent and viable. What has happened is the creation of small ideological echo-chambers, immune to external critique and scrutiny, never engaging with other disciplinary perspectives…..soaking up vast streams of public money and delivering nothing in terms of societal well-being.
So localize, re-embed in communities, re-expand technical education, remove incentives that promote individual spatial mobility, incentivize inter-generational family solidarity and co-living, incentivize place-bound community attachments…
Re-create properly elite universities for the small number of people with properly academic sensibilities….most of these should also be place-bound/attached
Make sure that these institutions are highly meritocratic and open
And yes – national service would be an excellent idea

https://sdp.org.uk/sdptalk/a-localist-model-for-higher-education/

Last edited 8 months ago by Stephen Quilley
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago

Time for a return to Porterhouse. “Dives in
omnia”:-

“Bene edamus! Bene bibamus!

Epula semper concelebramus

Quod imperat Regina

Ne faveat Doctrina

Se choro sonoro

Dives in omnia

Sed choro sonoro

Dives in omnia

Collegium, Collegium acclamus

Porterhouse, Porterhouse

To live and die in Porterhouse!

Dives in omnia!”

Last edited 9 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago

I’m going to have to re-watch it now …

Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago

I’m going to have to re-watch it now …

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago

Time for a return to Porterhouse. “Dives in
omnia”:-

“Bene edamus! Bene bibamus!

Epula semper concelebramus

Quod imperat Regina

Ne faveat Doctrina

Se choro sonoro

Dives in omnia

Sed choro sonoro

Dives in omnia

Collegium, Collegium acclamus

Porterhouse, Porterhouse

To live and die in Porterhouse!

Dives in omnia!”

Last edited 9 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Paul Rodolf
Paul Rodolf
8 months ago

I run an Aerospace Engineering company. Engineering competence is crucial. I can tell within a month whether we’ve hired a real engineer or a student who simply passed the requirements. We develop the real ones and say sayonara to the pretenders.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Rodolf

Excellent, then “tomorrow belongs to you” as they say Sir!