The week that was: The Browne Review

What happened

Oh, you know the drill. Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. Boy becomes Principal of Brasenose. Boy and girl use College expenses money in what, it is alleged, were unauthorised expenditures. It’s an expenses scandal of the classic kind. Principal Roger Cashmore and his wife went to Greece, North America and Pakistan. All the while, the story goes, they were charging BNC fee-payers for upgraded Business Class travel. In one case, according to a Brasenose report, ‘authorisation was expressly denied but the trip went ahead regardless’. Cashmore obviously denies this. He claims that he was not not granted authorisation, if you get my drift. This wily donnish manouevring didn’t work: the governors of Brasenose appear to have sacked Prof. Cashmore in an attempt to restore their credibility. That’s not the line. The line is he’s gone on research leave. It’s research leave which involves taking up two salaried positions, but they don’t want me to tell you that.

What the papers said

Many of the papers focussed on Lib Dem confusion, largely because they hate the Lib Dems. But the general Fleet Street consensus is to raise tuition fees to unlimited levels. The FT thought Browne was brilliant. The Telegraph thought it was brilliant. The Times was a little bit sceptical but, of course, ‘there is no better option on offer’. Even the Guardian and Independent are basically in favour. Remarkably, the Daily Mail is the most opposed- though only because ‘yet again, the middle classes will suffer’. Thoughtful.

What now?

You can splutter with rage all you like, but it’s unlikely to make a difference. If Labour and a solid chunk of Lib Dems vote against- neither a certainty- then the bill can be defeated. But Lib Dems in government are bound to back it, and that might be enough, regardless of what the backbenchers do. But your little brothers and sisters are likely to have to pay through the nose for an education. Arts degrees will be restricted to elite institutions. The humanities may face a serious possibility of destruction. And all the while, many universities will be privatised (the other place is already considering it). It will be pretty dire, and likely undo most of the good access work done by many JCRs and institutions. Of course, there is another problem that lies earlier on, in low-quality schooling and children being brought up in poverty. Butwhile Browne may be symptomatic of a deeper problem in our society, it’s worth standing up against its regressive implications for education.