Wednesday, January 24, 2018
The article below by Cat Moir is generally sensible even though it is from a strongly Leftist source. In the last of her words below she sees a paradox that is not, however. It is a widely held view that all speech should be free except speech that promotes violence. And it is pretty clear that Muslim teaching leads in the direction of violence. Jihad is not a Presbyterian idea and the Middle East is hardly an oasis of peace. So careful oversight of Muslim speech is warranted caution
On 8 January, Quality Indicators for Teaching and Learning (QILT) published the results of the 2017 Employer Satisfaction Survey. The survey stated that 84% of employers were satisfied overall with the skills of the university graduates they employed, with 93% saying that the graduates they employed were prepared ‘very well', or ‘well' for their current employment.
Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham released a statement on the survey, saying that these results were encouraging because they allow students to compare how courses “are viewed by their prospective employers as part of a clearer picture of our higher education system". According to Senator Birmingham, the survey will allow students to make better decisions “when considering the courses and careers they choose to embark on".
However, as QILT's Graduate Outcomes Survey also makes clear, whatever path they embark on, up to 38% of graduates leaving Australian universities today will not find full-time work. According to that data, the last decade has seen a rise of 17% in the number of university leavers in part-time employment.
In response to these figures, Senator Birmingham demands “more accountability of universities for the students they take on". He insists that universities must “take responsibility" for the outcomes of their graduates.
One might be tempted to argue at this juncture that universities are not just employability factories, but rather spaces for intellectual enquiry, self-discovery, and collective endeavour. Whatever their remit, though, no university would dispute that HE institutions must do everything in their power to provide students with the best possible standard of education, encouragement, and support.
But even if we conceive of the role of universities only in narrow economic terms, the implication that what happens within their walls can or should somehow guarantee the outcomes of students once they leave the campus and enter an increasingly volatile and precarious global labour market is false.
As the GOS makes clear, one of the main causes of the increase in part-time graduate work was the GFC in 2008: a less stable global labour market, combined with an influx of increasingly highly-qualified young people, makes it more difficult to get a job.
The paradox here, if you hadn't already guessed, is that if the point of universities is supposed to be to produce employable graduates, then there have to be jobs in which these graduates can be employed. But that is not something for which universities can be held responsible.
In the UK, the universities sector has confronted both a type-1 and a type-2 paradox this last week. Since they're related, let's group them together as the ‘freedom of speech paradox'.
The UK government has recently established a new Office for Students, a regulatory body that merges HEFCE and the Office for Fair Access. It has extensive powers: it will administer university funding, degree award powers, university title, the Teaching and Research Excellence Frameworks for measuring academic performance, and fair access to higher education.
It will also be responsible for ensuring that universities allow freedom of speech for controversial guest speakers.
The freedom of speech issue is familiar here in Australia: it has to do with universities no-platforming figures who publicly espouse violently racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory views.
The argument of no-platforming advocates is that ‘free speech' is so often used as a cover by those whose right to speak has historically been protected (more or less well off white men) to incite hatred and even violence towards those whose right to speak has historically not enjoyed the same protection: women, people of colour, gender non-binary people, the poor.
Whatever stance one takes on the no-platforming issue, it seems to be irreconcilable with the OfS' other duty: to enforce the government's Prevent strategy, which is designed to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism by — among other things — monitoring the potential presence of extremist views on campus.
The OfS is therefore in the (type-1) paradoxical situation of having to say that universities must protect the freedom of controversial figures to speak on campus… except if they're a radical Islamist, in which case they will be no-platformed after all.