2015 Talks at Basingstoke Cafe Sci Aug 2015 - University Shambles - A Critique of University Research

The speaker for the August 2015 meeting of Basingstoke Cafe Scientifique at The Tea Bar will be Professor Chris Rhodes, Director of Fresh Lands Environmental Action. Professor Rhodes will be discussing the results of his research into how University research is managed in the UK from his novel "University Shambles".

Summary:  University Shambles: How to Ruin the Best University System in the World; Chris Rhodes talks about the policy and ethics of the current educational system in the UK and what the possible future will be for coming generations. Government cuts rising tuition fees graduates debt-ridden and unemployed FE colleges becoming the new “new universities” the ruthless scramble for dwindling research funding bankrupt universities laying-off staff and endlessly merging.; Universities have changed unimaginably. In 1992 the binary divide between universities and polytechnics was abolished and the latter institutions were relabelled as “universities” and sometimes referred to (often disparagingly) as “new universities”. There then followed the creation of “new” “New Universities” (former FE colleges) and now with the government lowering the lower boundary on how many students (customers) an institution must have to achieve university status a promised further sphere of “new” “new” “New Universities” (former local colleges).

Over the past 20 years we have lost the practical training that the polytechnics provided very well with strong connections to local industry to a system where good polytechnics have become bad universities and which is producing a record level of unemployed graduates each with a debt of around £30000 for the privilege.; Rather than the government target of 50% of our young becoming “graduates” we need more electricians plumbers carpenters mechanics farmers gardeners and bricklayers. Many of our “universities” should become technical colleges again to provide practical training of exactly this kind. Much better to be a trained plumber in demand and earning a good living than an unemployed university graduate. The government austerity measures (following the bank bail-out of 2008) and consequent swingeing cuts to university budgets are already urging change in this direction. Society is about to change dramatically as supplies of cheap crude oil begin to fail. We can expect a drastic scaling down of transportation as a liquid-fuels crisis ensues. Global growth will be stifled by limited resources. The consequence will be a re-adaptation to more locally-based communities and indeed we will need far fewer universities and “academic” education but much more in the way of practical skills. Welcome to a Brave New World.

Biography:  Professor Chris Rhodes is a writer and researcher who became involved with environmental issues while working in Russia during the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. He studied chemistry at Sussex University earning both a B.Sc and a Doctoral degree (D.Phil.); rising to become the youngest professor of physical chemistry in the U.K. at the age of 34.; He has published more than 200 peer reviewed scientific articles and 3 books. He is also a published novelist journalist and poet. His novel “University Shambles” was nominated for Brit Writers’ Awards 2011: Published Writer of the Year.; Chris has given numerous radio and televised interviews concerning environmental issues both in Europe and in the United States – including on BBC Radio 4’s Material World.

Latest invitations as a speaker include a series of international lectures regarding the impending depletion of world oil and the need to develop oil-independent sustainable societies.

Venue:  The Tea Bar doors will be open from around 6.00pm before the talk which starts at 7:30pm, so you can get yourself a drink and have a chat with other participants. We will aim to finish around 9:00pm as usual, though everyone will be welcome to stay around and have a chat with the speaker until around 10:00pm.

The format of the evening is usually a talk of 30 to 40 minutes, followed by a short break so the audience can refill their glasses and buy cakes before questions and discussions about the talk. Entry is free and open to everyone, but we do encourage you to buy a tea, coffee or drink (and cakes) at the bar to show your support for The Tea Bar who sponsor the meeting by providing the venue.

Cafe Scientifique is a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, anyone can come to explore and debate the latest ideas in science and technology.

Basingstoke Cafe Scientifique is a free Science Interest Group organised and sponsored by the Active Hampshire Social Club.


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Enquiries to: Bob Clifford (info@cafesci-basingstoke.org.uk)

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