As A Level STEM Subjects Surge-English and the Arts are in Decline

Its not Either English or STEM but both

The number of  English entries: taken together, the three English subjects (English, English Literature and English Language & Literature) have seen a decline of 20%, or one fifth,  in three years.  Sciences are up by  roughly the same amount.

There has been a constant iteration  from the government that science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)  are everything,  and a great value investment for students. This is  particularly so  in the age of Artificial Intelligence ,so we should perhaps  not be  too surprised that our  teenagers  are opting for these subjects at A-level and university. Laura McInerney, writing in the Guardian on 16th July says ‘  Sixth-formers are told that, faced with sky-high university fees, they need a return on their investment, and so are eschewing Shakespeare in favour of “vocational” degrees in law, or medicine, or business. A recent intern I worked with, Eve Debbage, who is studying English at UCL, says many people told her that she wouldn’t get a job if she took the course.’

She warns  ‘Computer science courses persistently have the highest unemployment rates. Meanwhile, English graduates still go into a wide variety of careers, from publishing to the civil service. And soft skills are always in demand. Google cites communication skills and creativity among its top prerequisites for employees.’.

The message has to be that its not either STEM or English, but both- if you want a rounded education. As Joseph Aoun, President of Northeastern College,  Boston,  has pointed out in his book ‘Robot Proof’,  even in the age of AI we are going to have to preserve and enhance those qualities that make us human ,as distinct from smart  machines. We really are better at some things than these machines ever will be, and this includes creativity,  soft skills and critical  and strategic , holistic,  thinking . So, a   liberal arts education and ‘human literacy’  may  become even more important  to us in the future, not less.

He advocates the importance of course of  STEM type disciplines,  but this is balanced by   promoting  also  the traditional three Rs ,  and adding new literacies. His vision, currently being applied at Northeastern,  involves fostering purposeful integration of technical literacies, such as coding and data literacy, with human literacies, such as creativity, ethics, cultural agility, and entrepreneurship. When students combine these literacies with experiential components, they integrate their knowledge with real life settings, leading, effectively , to deeper learning and greater flexibility,  but also learning throughout their lives. And this  balanced education will prepare students for the age of smart machines. His is   an optimistic vision elevating  the continuing  need for a fully  rounded education.  One thing it doesn’t involve though, is dropping English in its various formats. This   clear message  needs to go out to  parents ,students and politicians alike. Its not either, or,  but both. STEM, English and the arts  are, and always will be,  mutually supporting.

Advertisements

Noah Carl , Academic Freedom and Cambridge University-A Moral failure

Noah Carl, in the summer of 2018, was given a job at St Edmund’s College in the University of Cambridge. However , just two months into his three-year fellowship, a group of student and academic activists complained to the college about his appointment. Carl argues that their complaints were ‘malicious’, and ‘were clearly motivated by ideological opposition to some of my work.’ In a nutshell he was accused of conducting racist research assisting apologists for the far right. And for good measure, was accused of withholding contentious publications from his CV. In fact, Noah did not do research on race (and intelligence) nor did he withhold publications from his CV. We are now, it seems ,living in a post truth sociopathic era in which if you say something on social media then it must be true. The activists made sweeping, unsubstantiated claims. One might have expected St Edmund’s College and their master Matthew Bullock, to come out in defence of his academic freedom. The whole point of university is to explore controversial topics, and debate controversial ideas, and subject them to the neon light of scrutiny, in pursuit if truth. Instead, St Edmunds launched two “investigations”: one into Carl personally, and one into their own appointment process. There then followed a campaign of harassment against him, totally unchecked. No protection or cover was provided for him, a member of staff, by the college. Carl says that critics ‘ misrepresented my views and my research, held public protests against me, and teamed up with journalists from the Cambridge student newspaper.’ This all proved too much for St Edmund’s College, and on 30 April 2019, they went all wobbly , lost their moral compass, and terminated his fellowship. In a public statement, the Master failed to provide a clear explanation for the decision, and even apologised for the “hurt” caused by his appointment. On a positive note since he was fired, over 600 international academics have signed a petition supporting him , and several leading newspapers have published articles criticising the college’s decision. Unsurprisingly, he is taking legal action against the college in the name of protecting freedom of speech, and standing up to the activists who are trying, he claims, to control our universities
Professor Eric Kaufmann of Birkbeck, University of London in his recent book Whiteshift, coined the term “left-modernism”. In short, he characterised this as ‘ an intolerant new ideology hellbent on driving from universities anyone who dissents from the progressive orthodoxy on race, sexuality and gender. The aim is to produce a safe space presided over by progressive virtue police among staff and students. ‘ He says this must be resisted, and links it to Noah Carls case.

Higher Education institutions, including specifically Cambridge, should have their feet held to the fire on protecting academic freedom, by the regulator and in the HE league tables. Why not have as one of the metrics in league tables an institutions reputation for protecting academic freedom and freedom of speech, so central to the purpose of universities worldwide? If universities prohibit freedom of expression and discussion of divergent views by their tutors, what exactly are they for? Cambridge might be less cavalier in their approach to this vital issue if they plummeted out of the top ten in all international league tables . Hold them to account.

DONT FEAR THE AI REVOLUTION-PREPARE FOR IT-AOUNs VISION

“If we compete with machines on their terms we lose, but on ours, we win.”
If you were to compile a list of the top ten most influential leaders in US higher education  President of Northeastern University(Boston) Joseph E Aoun would have to be on  it . His wonderfully concise book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, offers  an optimistic vision in which there is not much to fear from Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, and quite a lot to look forward to, providing, that is, we prepare for it. This does not mean that every student needs to study STEM subjects and learn how to code. Far from it, the liberal arts will still play a vital role in equipping students for a  jobs market, re-shaped by the advance of AI. . Higher education can, in fact, lead the way in helping people retool and redefine themselves in a future made more uncertain by technology. Aoun practises what he preaches, ensuring that his students at Northeastern  are being properly prepared to meet and exploit the new challenges.

Aoun says that we have to  look at what machines do well, and better than us, and what we do well, and the areas where AI is less likely to have a significant  impact. He claims that the students of the future will need to adapt to this changing world by focusing on what makes them unique as humans, and by conceiving and creating ideas that are beyond the capabilities of artificial intelligence and smart machines.

Aoun writes ‘To ensure that graduates are robot proof in the workplace institutions of higher learning will have to rebalance their curricula’. He  reminds us that creative problem-solving, people management and social intelligence remain beyond the purview of machines, and no matter what, these soft skills will be needed in the future. So, we need to nurture our species unique traits of creativity and flexibility. This  will prepare students to compete in a labour market in which brilliant machines work alongside human professionals.
But what specific changes are needed?  He looks to an integration of three new literacies -understanding technology, understanding data, and understanding what it means to be human—that together form a curriculum he calls ‘humanics’.  The second element of humanics is a set of four cognitive capacities ;systems thinking (viewing holistically) ; entrepreneurship (applying creative mindset to economic and social sphere) cultural agility (operating deftly in global environment and different cultures); critical thinking (instils the habit of rational analysis and judgement) This helps students rise above the computing power of brilliant machines by engendering creativity. But humanics is not a magic bullet; it needs to be combined with an experiential component, integrating classroom learning with real-world experience.

This is at the heart of Northeastern University’s strategic plan Northeastern 2025—a concept of lifelong and experiential learning that aims to  liberate students from outdated career models and give them the opportunity to prosper over the course of their lives.

Aoun stresses the importance of giving people the opportunity to continuously re-educate themselves and stay one step ahead of the machines—something universities have failed to provide until now.

According to him  “If you only focus on [students] the ages of 18 to 22, that’s not going to be enough. We are all going to need lifelong learning. From this perspective, higher education is facing its golden age—but it doesn’t realize it yet.”

Lifelong learning and links to employers are central to his  recommendations for higher education .He believes that the university must come to learners, rather than students coming to the university.’ ‘Truly transformative learning results are the product of integrating academic and real work experiences.’

In short ‘The build it and they will come model ‘ will become obsolete. Learning must now  be customised to the learners needs, and we must all wise up to the fact that when the economy changes-so must education .

Note
If you want to discover more about the possible impact of AI on Education and how to prepare for it
read Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Joeph E Aoun and The fourth education revolution: Will artificial intelligence liberate or infantilise humanity? By Anthony Seldon . Seldon writes ‘ Ensuring the right education system that develops our full humanity is more important than anything else we might do’ Joseph Aoun visited the UK last week to speak at the Festival of Higher Education at the University of Buckingham.

University Rankings dont Measure Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom-Why not?

Uni League Tables- What about a Metric that measures Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom
We now have a confusion of league tables seeking to rate universities. Global rankings of universities, such as the Times Higher Education or THE World University Rankings, the QS World University Rankings and the Academic Ranking of World Universities, claim to identify the ‘best’ universities in the world and then list them in rank order, and they are enormously influential. Each of these rankings have very different criteria for placing institutions .This  accounts for the very different results each ranking provides, with some universities doing well in one and poorly in another. The variations can be extreme. Although, to be fair , there is some consistency at the very top of the tables. They have flaws ,of course. A potential flaw lies in their focus on universities as a single entity, neglecting to appreciate that different faculties at universities have different strengths and weaknesses. Some universities excel in specific subjects – so it’s foolish to ignore these institutions simply because their overall ranking is not particularly high. But there may be another rather fundamental flaw. And its got to do with the central purpose of universities.
At a recent Pearson debate on the purpose of universities, Ben Hughes,  the vice principal at Pearson College London   suggested that one  view is that ‘The purpose of a university is to be the guardian of reason, inquiry and philosophical openness, preserving pure inquiry from dominant public opinions.’

It is a self-evident truth that advancing ideas and learning through debate, in pursuit of truth, is a critical, indeed crucial , part of what universities and colleges do, and have always done, and therefore should be nurtured and protected. Freedom of speech is important in all settings, but especially in universities, where education and learning are advanced through dialogue and debate. It underpins academic freedom. Universities are places where ideas are developed, a diverse range of interesting–and sometimes controversial–topics should be debated.  Some people may be upset and offended by such clashes, but arguably  universities are not doing their job  if at some point students arent upset. So,the suppression of speech is a threat to the universities’ very identity as institutions dedicated to the production and dissemination of knowledge. But there are concerns that, although there appears to be no evidence of a systematic campaign to undermine freedom of speech and expression, and academic freedom in universities , some institutions appear to be at the very least careless, cavalier and inconsistent in their role as guardians of freedom of speech. It is worth mentioning Oxbridge in this respect. Both universities are beginning to develop reputations for being less than assiduous in protecting and advancing these freedoms in their institutions, instead , favouring knee jerk responses to social media campaigns that attack and victimise individual academics and the very freedoms they are responsible for protecting. In the process debates are shut down, justice and fairness largely ignored.
Both Oxford and Cambridge have a reputation to protect and  their high rankings, too.  But  this seems to have no impact on the way they behave in this vital area. Perhaps they need an incentive to behave much better. So, here is a suggestion. That a new metric is introduced in rankings that measures institutions on how effective they are at protecting freedom of speech and academic freedom . When I put this to Phil Baty of THE, he responded by asking me how this might be measured. It cant be beyond the ken of the experts at THE, or elsewhere in other ranking organisations, to design algorithms that do this fairly. After all ,there are many international rankings that rate countries on their Human Rights records , the Freedom of their Press, Quality of Life, Investment environment etc, why not for institutions?

Already Libertarian magazine Spiked ranks universities on how far they are upholding or restricting free speech, using a traffic light system.(although their methodology has been criticised)

If this were to happen , Oxbridge would, almost certainly ,drop out of the top ten. And, for that matter , Chinese institutions. They are currently rising rapidly up the rankings, across the board- fuelled by massive investment.  Given that they have a growing reputation for  being  increasingly illiberal,strong-arming academics  particularly who criticise  China,  they would plummet ,equally rapidly, one suspects, down  the rankings. Perhaps this is why it hasn’t yet happened? But, I reckon its time for some carrots and sticks

Public Schools under the Cosh-But the Push Back Begins

The Independent sector has been under the cosh lately. Threats and attacks from Labour, are par for the course, but Tories have shown an increased willingness to attack  and threaten the sector. Mays Education Green paper  seeking to improve the number of  good school places, was full of implied and direct threats to the sector. More sticks than carrots.  Michael Gove, a former (privately educated) education secretary who educates his children  in the state sector, used a Times column   in 2017  to attack the independent sector in a way that would have been unthinkable by a Conservative politician even a decade ago.The Tories had  also proposed  in 2017, a loss of charity status ,  and  though  they  did pause , then  backtrack,  it has been    a deeply worrying period  for the sector. The Conservatives approach comes partly from their on-going identity crisis under Mays leadership. Traditional Tory values have been kicked into the long grass, in favour of  seeking to target those who feel let down by the system, the disenfranchised and  those that  are just about getting by. But there is also a  feeling that there is more to be gained politically by   attacking the sector than  by supporting it. After all, relatively few parents have children , or aspire to have children , educated  in the private sector. What the Tories havent quite  cottoned on to though,   is that its all very well seeking to appeal to a different   target group and  to broaden your base,  but its not very clever to do so  if you concurrently upset your traditional core  support base, whether that be parents with children in the independent sector,  or, for that matter, the self-employed and   small businesses.

As for Labour, abolishing  the VAT exemption for private schools was a pledge in their last  manifesto. It wants to add VAT to private school fees to pay for free school meals for state primary pupils.  Few doubt that Corbyn and his leading  advisers (ironically many privately educated) want to abolish private schools.(although the legal and political difficulties of doing so are very significant)

In short, Ed Dorrell of the TES was   probably fairly  close to the mark when he said  ‘The scale of the PR and political challenge faced by the independent sector is Leviathan. Something radical needs to be done to avert disaster.’

The sector clearly  feels,  more generally ,that it is poorly represented in the media ,which takes little account of the good work it is doing in communities, through partnerships with local state schools (which have increased dramatically over the last 5 years), in support of academies, in providing support  and  access   to specialist  curriculum subjects,  and extra curricular support, in sharing its facilities,  in offering bursaries and scholarships to the  disadvantaged and  last ,but by no means least, in exporting British education.  Indeed ,its arguable that there are very few areas where the UK is seen  internationally to  still have a competitive advantage, and to be a centre of excellence ,but private education is  still one and so should be cherished.

This year’s Independent Schools Council Annual Report attempts to redress some of the balance, robustly asserting the financial benefits of fee-charging schools and the good they are doing for society.

The schools bring economic benefits and taxpayer savings totalling more than £20 billion a year by educating pupils who would otherwise need state places and by providing employment, community facilities and tax contributions, according to their analysis. Oxford Economics found that private schools saved the taxpayer £3.5 billion last year because children were not taking up state school places. In addition, they and their suppliers paid £4.1 billion in tax.

Their gross domestic product, the value of the work they supported across the economy through their spending, was £13.7 billion. They also supported 302,000 jobs, more than the city of Liverpool, the analysis claimed. The ISC said that families received more than £1 billion of help with fees. Of the £864 million provided by schools themselves, £422 million went on means-tested bursaries and scholarships, £24 million more than in 2017.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the ISC, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see an increase once again in means-tested bursary provision for lower-income families. We have seen schools embark upon ambitious fundraising campaigns to support this important work.”

However above inflation, yearly increases in fees is creating the perception that the sector is ,if anything, becoming more elitist and inaccessible, to all but the very wealthiest in the UK. . Scholarships may be helping a few but hardly disrupt the bigger picture .Families using private schools pay an average £14,289 a child, and boarding fees in London have reached £40,000 on average.

Some in the sector are doing what  they can  not just to cap fee rises, but to row back. Millfield, for example, has just reduced its fees by 10%, but they are the exception not the rule . Most of the top schools still seem to be in a never ending facilities race which impacts on fees and the pockets of alumni. Again, more and better facilities creates an even greater perceived gap between the state and independent sectors, with state schools under funding pressure.This is hardly  helped by independent schools poaching some of their best  pupils and teachers . It is also true that too many bursaries, in the past, have been offered not to the poorest children, but to those middle class families who are just about making ends meet.   Its  pretty clear that  a significant minority may  have  lost sight of their original charitable purposes  and  the founding principles of their schools.

The Times quotes  Tom Richmond,  a former ministerial adviser and director of the  new education think-tank EDSK, who  said: “While it is welcome in principle to see an increase in the level of ‘fee assistance’ being given to pupils in independent schools, the census provides no evidence to show that this money is directly benefiting poorer families as opposed to subsidising middle-class families who are struggling to cope with above-inflation fee rises.”

That said, its undeniable that the sector is taking its public benefit requirement very seriously. Not  just because of the legal requirement ,under charity law, to do so.  It sees mutual benefit in closer ties between the sectors. 86% of ISC schools are in mutually beneficial partnerships with state schools, sharing expertise, best practice and facilities to the benefit of children in all the schools involved.

Of course, not all private schools seek charity status, and about a third of schools plough their own furrows, free from potential interference from politicians. Perhaps more should be trying to do this. But it is important for the sectors to build bridges and to continue to create the  kind of partnerships that add value for both parties and to  identify  and share best practice.  There also needs to be a more adult and better informed  political conversation about  the benefits (and dis benefits) of private education, and more innovative solutions to making these schools more inclusive, rather than, as is perceived ,by some at least, as   ever more elitist.

 

 

See

https://www.schoolstogether.org/

See ISC

https://www.isc.co.uk/research/annual-census/

Note For those interested in the Independent Sector, and its future, it is worth taking a look at a new book, a collection of essays, just launched ‘The State of Independence-Key Challenges Facing Private Schools today,’ edited by Dr David James and Jane Lunnon.  James is a former teacher in residence at DfE, taught at Wellington College, and was Director of its Education Festival and is now deputy Head at Bryanston. Lunnon was Deputy Head at Wellington College, and is now Head of Wimbledon High (GDST)

DECOLONISING THE CURRICULUM-IS CONSENSUS ON THE CURRICULUM UNRAVELLING?

Campaigns to decolonise education and the curriculum are much in evidence, on campuses and in debating fora. But the debate is  no longer an esoteric issue on the margins , debated in the abstract.

Some universities are actively taking steps to examine their curriculum through a de-colonising prism. Soas has established a decolonisation working group, for example.   Keele University has even issued a Manifesto on de-colonisation which ‘ involves a paradigm shift from a culture of exclusion and denial to the making of space for other political philosophies and knowledge systems’.  The Office for Students has published a report recommending that undergraduate courses decolonise the curriculum by addressing the way in which its values “perpetuate white westernised hegemony and position anything non-European and not white as inferior” This is not limited to History. It embraces other domains such as literature, geography and sociology. There is a search for more context, more voices, more perspectives, that are global, less euro- centric.

Kehinde Andrews, professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, says this isn’t about adding black or brown faces to the curriculum. It’s about “changing the basis of knowledge” and constitutes “a revisionist history of a lot of western thought”. Meera Sabaratnam, a lecturer in international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies ,sees a moral and intellectual justification for de-colonisation. ‘ The project of decolonising education argues that we should seek to overcome the limits of what the West has historically imagined about itself. Decolonising the curriculum is thus a thoroughly pro-intellectual endeavour that means examining multiple accounts of an issue, looking at processes in their global and historical contexts, writing in the lives, narratives and knowledges that have been written out or discounted, and confronting the contestations that this produces.’

Gurminder Bhambra, of  the University of Sussex, says that decolonising the curriculum is about re-balancing the eurocentric outlook of a university and this requires a deep interrogation of structures that produce inequalities. Therefore, every member of staff in an institution  needs to be involved in that process, and students should be engaged with it too.

Ben Gartside wants change for pragmatic reasons. He believes we need to broaden the sources for  humanities courses-  ‘not to revise history but to give a breadth of perspective.’ The best critiques come from different standpoints, whether ideological or cultural, so to have a curriculum dominated by authors from similar backgrounds and educated at similar institutions leads to a narrowing of thought and discussion.’

No Curriculum should be set in stone. It should continually evolve , changing the combination of empirical knowledge and encompassing differing interpretations . As Dr Alex Standish of UCL  says ‘The disciplinary knowledge that informs the curriculum comes from our universities and broader culture. It is not static and neither should this be the case with the school curriculum. Teachers and schools need to work at their subject knowledge and continually augment the curriculum.’
But some worry about the motives of this campaign and what the real outcomes being pursued are.  . Is this really about broadening and increasing knowledge or something else? Sabaratnam clearly sees it as an opportunity to drill deeper into what is happening in our universities-the lack of opportunity and access for BAME students, differing outcomes and lack of ethnic minority staff and pay differentials . ‘Decolonising education is therefore also about ensuring that universities work to eliminate all forms of racism within higher education, she says. Writing in the Times she points out that ’ a black student with four As at A-level was less likely to leave university with a first or a 2:1 as a white student with an A and two Bs. We also know that academics from non-white ethnic groups are paid more than 15% less on average, controlling for experience and qualifications.’ So it would appear that a broader agenda is growing out  of efforts to change the curriculum  for significant structural and cultural changes throughout the sector although there may be dangers in conflating these issues  serving to  muddy the waters  and dissipate efforts. So much for the free flow of ideas, in pursuit of truth.
.
And  there is a push back . Melanie Phillips reacting to these moves wrote   ‘The very principle on which liberal education is based — to teach the best that has ever been thought or said — is being overturned in favour of refracting information through the prism of ideology. Teaching students how to think is being replaced by telling them what to think. This is not education but propaganda.’

Professor Doug  Stokes of Exeter University  finds it all a bit   perplexing. The idea that the views and perspectives of  minorities are being shut out of academe,  in favour of those who promote white  western perspectives, to the exclusion of others views, is , he suggests, hardly backed by evidence  .Western social science and humanities departments  are full of alternative viewpoints,  not least because the departments tend to be  populated by left- leaning academics,who are particularly hostile to pro-western world views and sensitive to minority viewpoints, . When an  Oxford academic recently  suggested that the empire  and its outcomes were   not all bad, the reaction was  immediate, brutal, and illiberal, not least from his fellow academics.  Any debate  on the substantive  issues  raised was  quickly shut down in favour of personal attacks and demonisation.

Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert argues that the decolonisers are ’ wrong in their understanding of the relationship between knowledge and democratic goals, and disastrously wrong in their claims that strategies for decolonisation can help combat racism in its contemporary form. In fact, in many ways, the discourse surrounding decolonisation furnishes today’s intellectual and moralistic justifications for racism, albeit unintentionally.’ She sees them advancing the flawed notion of epistemological relativism which rests on the presupposition that the meanings of any knowledge claims are context specific, i.e. they make sense only within a given linguistic community and its historically specific social context’

What we teach in our schools and universities is of vital importance.  But the content of the curriculum is not a scientific process. Decisions about what is important for students to learn are in effect  often philosophical questions about who we are, and what we value. Should the curriculum be treated as a tool to address economic and social issues, rather than for the development of knowledge and understanding? Or is it not either, or, but both?  And what exactly is knowledge?  And how do we arrive at a consensus about a common curriculum? Is this current debate revealing  an unravelling of consensus , and do we need a fundamental re-think?

Indeed are we now in a place where society lacks a sufficient common foundation of beliefs and values with which to inform agreement on what a broad curriculum looks like? Or, alternatively,  is this all overcooked, a storm in a teacup -an agenda being pushed by a small vocal but well organised minority? Food for thought

Note -the Higher Education Festival at the University of Buckingham has a debate on Decolonising the Curriculum on 27th June see
https://www.hefestival.com/

Note 2 Epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief.

WHETHER YOU AGREE WITH JORDAN PETERSON OR NOT-CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY OWES HIM AN APOLOGY

Cambridge University’s Divinity department invited the controversial Canadian intellectual Dr  Jordan Peterson to visit them, but then, without notice  dis- invited him. He  first heard that he had been dis invited from the internet, not from Cambridge. This all looks cavalier and rude. The university has subsequently, and very belatedly, announced that the real reason for them withdrawing their  invitation was a picture of Peterson with his arm round the shoulder of a man wearing a T-shirt bearing the legend “I’m a proud Islamaphobe” (sic).“The casual endorsement by association of this message,” said the vice-chancellor, was “antithetical” to the faculty’s work in inter-faith understanding.’
However ,according to Melanie Phillips, this picture was taken on Peterson’s speaking tour of New Zealand last month by a company which fans pay to photograph them with a visiting celebrity. So Phillips argued ‘ Peterson no more endorsed this silly T-shirt, than he endorsed any of the almost 200 others around whose shoulders he was also photographed draping his arm. In other words, this was a knee-jerk reaction by the university, which didn’t even ask Peterson about the picture and has now made an even greater fool of itself.’

The latter point is actually quite important. If you invite an academic to your university  then dis- invite them in short order, it is fair , professional and courteous to inform them  personally as to why,  while  giving  them an opportunity to respond .  Cambridge demonstrably failed to do any of this. Peterson was  certainly unwise to allow himself to be photographed with this man, wearing a very  obnoxious slogan. But  ,as Philips has explained, there was a context, that should have been  taken into account .It is also possible that Peterson didn’t see what was on the T shirt, particularly   as so many individuals were  lining up for the photo opportunity . In any case, its entirely wrong of the University not to allow Peterson to  give his version  before making their decision. One strongly suspects that apart from the charges of unprofessionalism unfairness and discourtesy , that another could be laid at the University’s door, that as Phillips ,puts  it, is’ merely the latest example of a university becoming an unsafe space for anyone falling foul of ideological orthodoxies or the terror of provoking those who enforce them.’ In this respect is Cambridge any different  now  from, say, any Chinese University.?I wonder. Cambridge University ,at the very least, owes Peterson  a better explanation and a grovelling  apology.

And, here is a thought- maybe those who design these fancy  HE  league tables that feel able to rank universities, according to their excellence, across the board,   should  now think about the degree to which the ranked  universities protect academic freedom, and fix this as one of their criteria,  rating  them accordingly.  You cannot , after all, possibly be a world class academic institution if you muzzle academics. and dont  protect academic freedom and freedom of expression . As Cambridge might say, its “antithetical” to the proper functioning of a centre of academic excellence   Discuss.