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Launch of the Council for the Defence of British Universities


On Tuesday 13 November, the Council for the Defence of British Universities was launched at the British Academy.

The sixty six Founding Members of the CBDU include seven Fellows of the Learned Society of Wales:

  • Professor Sir John Cadogan, CBE, FRS, FRSE, PLSW
  • Professor Richard Carwardine, FBA, FLSW
  • Rt Rev Professor The Lord Harries of Pentregarth, FRSL, Hon FMedSci FLSW
  • Lord Morgan, FBA, FLSW
  • Professor Sir John Meurig Thomas, FRS, Hon FREng, Hon FRSE, FLSW
  • Sir Keith Thomas, FBA, FLSW
  • Professor Wynn Thomas, OBE, FBA, FLSW

The CDBU was founded to advance university education for the public benefit. Its aims are:

  • To defend and enhance the character of British universities as places where students can develop their capacities to the full, where research and scholarship are pursued at the highest level, and where intellectual activity can be freely conducted without regard to its immediate economic benefit
  • To urge that university education, both undergraduate and graduate, be accessible to all students who can benefit from it
  • To maintain the principle that teaching and research are indispensable activities for a university and that one is not pursued at the expense of the other
  • To ensure that universities, while responding to the needs of students and of society in general, should retain ultimate control of the content of the courses taught and the methods of instruction employed. As well as often providing vocational training, university education should equip graduates with the mental skills and intellectual flexibility necessary to meet the demands of a rapidly changing economy. It should develop the powers of the mind, enlarge knowledge and understanding, and enable graduates to lead fuller and more rewarding lives
  • To emphasise that, as well as often having vital social and economic applications and being subject to accountability, academic research seeks to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the physical world, of human nature and of all forms of human activity
  • To ensure that methods employed to assess the quality of university research do not encourage premature or unnecessary publication or inhibit the production of major works of research that require a long period of gestation
  • To safeguard the freedom of academics to teach and to pursue research and inquiry in the directions appropriate to the needs of their subject
  • To maintain the principle of institutional autonomy, to encourage academic self-government and to ensure that the function of managerial and administrative staff is that of facilitating teaching and research
  • To ensure that British universities continue to transmit and reinterpret the world’s cultural and intellectual inheritance, to encourage international exchange and to engage in the independent thought and criticism necessary for the flourishing of any democratic society


Two Fellows of the Society addressed the launch event.

Sir John Meurig Thomas spoke on attitudes to research and Lord Morgan on institutional autonomy and academic self-government. Lord Morgan expressed the views of many at the launch, in urging that the CDBU should emerge as a ‘champion of higher education as the most supreme of public goods’.

 

Britain’s universities are amongst the world’s best. But misguided policies are rapidly undermining them. One reason: no organisation exists to defend academic values. Hence the need for the CDBU.