Thursday, 30 June 2022

Britain, with a Government bent on closing down English Literature degree courses in universities, is no country for a celebrated old author called Phillip Pullman

A Sheffield Hallam University spokesperson has confirmed that its English Literature degree course was among a small number of its courses that were being either suspended or closed, largely due to lack of demand and the award-winning author, Phillip Pullman is not a happy man. The seventy-five year old author of the fantasy trilogy 'His Dark Materials' and 'The Good Man Jesus' and 'The Scoundrel Christ' has said that : "The study of literature should not be a luxury for a wealthy minority of spoilt and privileged aesthetes, but a spring of precious truth and life that every one of us is entitled to”. “Without literature, without music and art and dance and drama, people young and old alike will perish of mental and emotional and imaginative starvation. We really do have a Government of barbarians".

A number of universities have made cuts to arts and humanities provision after the Conservative Government crackdown on what ministers regard as “low-value” courses. Under proposed new rules under consultation, universities could face penalties if fewer than 75% of undergraduates complete their courses and fewer than 60% are in professional jobs or studying for a further degree within 15 months of graduating. About 70% of graduates of Sheffield Hallam’s English literature degree gain graduate jobs.

Jo Grady, the General Secretary of the University and College Union, 'UCU', said : “The decision by Sheffield Hallam to shut down its English Literature course is as shocking as it is depressing, but seems part of a wider agenda being forced on universities by the Government against the arts and humanities.” 

James Graham, the writer of the critically acclaimed BBC TV series, 'Sherwood', who did a drama degree at Hull University saw the move as part of a trend, with arts and creative subjects slowly disappearing not just from higher education but from primary and secondary schools as well. He said : “It’s just deeply depressing that one of the great British success stories of the last few years – the arts and entertainment industry – is going to be systemically weakened and diminished because it is being eradicated from education in the UK”.

Sarah Perry, the bestselling author of 'Melmoth' and 'The Essex Serpent', said : “I suspect this is only the latest symptom in the disease creeping across education at all levels, in which learning has been stripped of everything but the most utilitarian aims, designed to form minds into nothing but cogs in the capitalist machine. It’s dismal and dehumanising, and I’m afraid its effects will be far-reaching”. 

Sarah Hall, an author and Professor of Practice at the University of Cumbria, reflected on the University’s decision to stop teaching the standalone English Literature Degree and incorporate it instead into a broad-based English Degree. She said : “It’s awful, absolutely awful. I wish it wasn’t happening.” 

Michelle Donelan, the Minister for Higher and Further Education and a History and Politics graduate from the University of York, put forward, what this Government would call a "robust "defence" of its position when she said that it recognised that all subjects, including the arts and humanities, can lead to positive student outcomes but : “Courses that do not lead students on to work or further study fail both the students who pour their time and effort in, and the taxpayer, who picks up a substantial portion of the cost”. I have the feeling that Jo and James and Sarah and Sarah would disagree with her and side with Phillip and sadly : 

"We really do have a Government of barbarians"

1 comment:

  1. Short-sighted cultural vandalism. They daren't say it, but the ones who will pay back the least proportion of their student loans will be those who take career breaks and/or work part-time, irrespective of what degree they take.