Hollowing out the ivory tower

Alison Wolf tells Tim Black that the now orthodox view of universities as engines of economic growth is making us lose sight of their primary purpose: the pursuit of knowledge.
Tim Black

‘The idea – which I have to say has affected large numbers of politicians – that you can just give people at university a certificate and, hey presto, they’ll earn this amount more and the country will be x-amount richer has always seemed so bizarre to me that I have to pinch myself that so many apparently rational people believe exactly that.’

Professor Alison Wolf is a breathless speaker – as I discovered while trying to keep up during the course of our interview. But as the author of Does Education Matter? Myths About Education and Economic Growth, and more recently of the government-commissioned Review of Vocational Education, Wolf is certainly worth listening to on the plight of British universities. And nowhere is her insight more valuable than when it comes to tackling what she has called ‘the great secular faith of our age’ – namely, the idea that education is the key to economic growth, swelling both an individual’s bank balance and expanding a nation’s GDP.

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