Monday, 24 September 2012

Border Agency University

It is worth remembering that the appropriate paradigm for a university has not always been detention centre. In 1989 I remember walking right in to a class on 'Twelve Angry Men and anti McCarthyite Film' at New York University. Nobody stopped me, there were no barriers, in fact academics of the period often staunchly defended their right to keep their classes open to anyone, especially the Marxists of course. Back here barriers were only really introduced when computers arrived and there was something to nick, even the library just had a security barrier on a one way swing. We grumbled when identification tags came along. Now everybody seems to wear them.
It is worth remembering this because now the universities have become the dominion of the vastly expanded Border Agency for Fortress Britain, and that Fortress Britain is itself the consequence of two calamitous geopolitical events; the collapse of the Berlin Wall that made people think free market economics could rule the world, and 9/11/ which proved that wasn't quite the case. The consequence of this will be a generation of students (born post 1989, so vastly innocent of such cause and effect, but bilingual in twitter) who are going to be running around madly trying to check in to every class they are supposed to do in scenes reminiscent of the great loyalty crusade in Catch 22. Unfortunately this is because universities are never going to be prepared for such a tight fit no tolerance approach where everything is mapped out just so, because they are not houses of detention and in fact can hardly, by nature, organise a piss up in a brewery. That is the nature of the beast.
What of course will happen, and you don't have to be Nostradamus to see it, is that by week whatever thousands and thousands of bemused students will receive nasty letters from the Border Agency telling them to leave the country because they couldn't check in to classes that weren't happening in rooms that weren't appropriate with staff who didn't know where they were, or who they are. I worry that the only people who will enjoy this situation are latent bullies, and history provides very succinct lessons for us there, and that eventually no education will happen at all, which is probably what they want.

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