Monday, November 20, 2006

Selling Our Soul..?

There was an article in the Times the other day about HEfc (the Higher Education Funding Council); the discussion was about redistribution of HE funds around the Universities and how in the future they will favour those institutions who attract more students from poorer backgrounds and potentially disadvantage the research orientated institutions. It got my interest when it went on to talk about the need for universities to work more closely with business, in order to attract sponsorship, as a way to enable them to grow and develop.

That got me to thinking about the clash of interest many think exists between public service and private enterprise. It's a dilemna ALL educational establishments have to deal with (all other social-orientated enterprise as well I suppose); The National Health Service is a good example. It grates upon us (well, it does upon me anyway) when we see the encroachment private business practices are making into hospitals etc, and the speed with which these changes are happening, and forever gathering pace.

About this distinction we make in society between enterprise for 'gain' as opposed to enterprise for 'good'; It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. Seems to me to be about whether or not we expend our energy in order to 'take' from society or in order to 'give' to it. Perhaps what's needed is a little of both. In my view we do in this country have a slightly misplaced suspicion of business per se. Not withstanding some of the less savoury business practices we hear about (and I grant you they do exist), business does nevertheless employ people and give them their livelihoods and, lets face it is a wholly natural and healthy element of any society.

So, is this 'clash of interest' real or imaginary, ideological or actual? I can't escape this deep-down feeling that the two CAN reside comfortably together, that they can operate alongside each other with neither having to compromise upon its fundamental principles or aims; That there is a balance to be struck whereby the two are actually one and the same i.e. in taking, one uses what one takes to build something, and that something we are building is then capable of giving back. I do accept that the Educationalists need to keep their wits about them to ensure that they remain whole as a result of this partnership with the business 'devil' (and on that point I believe I'm only half joking.)

Businesses are there to make profit, to grow by gathering and, at least to some degree, holding onto what has been gathered. The purpose of Education on the other hand is to grow by giving. Profit in this instance is the growth in social capital that comes in the form of well educated citizens. I like the analogy of a conduit: Something that enables energy, material or whatever to flow through it, only 'holding' in the sense that it guides that material towards a particular goal. What is important here is the energy not the conduit itself. Growth, is an expansion of the walls of the conduit, a way to increase the flow.

Business Sponsorship is then nothing more than pursuading those that makes gains to release them back into the society from which they came in the first place. Of course they (the business) achieve exposure from that, self-promotion but what is the harm if it ensures their continued existence and thus their ability to give back even more?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Another Week Over

Another week comes to an end. We have been busy. The Newsletter is a little delayed as we are trying to get the mailing database in a state that reduces the number of mail returns from old out-of-date addresses. We apologise for that and assure you it will be leaving this office in the next day or so.

I and the team are proud of this latest edition of 'Friends of Hope'. It's taken a lot of work but it's been worth it to see the finished product. We hope you all enjoy it.

Incidentally we will be producing the next electronic Newsletter, again in the next day or so. For those of you who can't access the Hope Virtually Daily Rolling News Magazine (see link below right) this is another way to keep up to date with campus news. Keep watching those inboxes!

On a personal note, I've been working with one of the international students and with my friends from Philosophy in Pubs to try and establish a new PIP's discussion group close by to the University Campus; The Halfway House is our most likely venue. Even so, what with Christmas coming up and the long(ish) holiday we are unlikely to get things off the ground until early in the new year, probably around mid January 2007. I'm quite excited about the venture. At the moment I travel on Tuesday evenings to Waterloo on the other side of Liverpool for one of the other groups. Its a long day, after finishing here, then having to drive 40 minutes, take part in a discussion, then drive back to Southport. Having a PIPs group close by will be a real relief. It will mean I can enjoy the discusssion more and have more energy to participate. Have a listen to this: It's courtesy of BBC Radio 3 and gives a good idea of what the PIP's groups are all about: Click Here (link pending).

All of you out there are cordially invited to attend the new group or for that matter, any of the other groups. I really can't recommend PIP's highly enough for those of you who spend time thinking about the meaning of life, be you religious or otherwise (like me). I've been going to Group's off and on now for 4 or 5 years and as I say there are 5 or 6 other venues throught the city. Check out the article in friends@hope to find out where, what and when. (not registered? Click the friends icon above).

Have a nice weekend y'all and come back refreshed ready to start work Monday!

All the best


Friday, November 10, 2006

Hectic Times

Things are lagging behind a bit on the web site(s). I apologise for that. It's been a little hectic around here what with preparing for the next Newsletter mail-out, getting the database up-to-date etc etc.

Do you lot out there realise just how difficult it is to keep track of your comings and goings? I know some of you have already signed up for the community and therefore will (should!) be keeping your own records up-to-date but that leaves out a good few thousand more who haven't yet signed up. So for those of you out there who are in that latter category, and are reading this, please, please, please, sign up and get those records up-to-date for me/us.

We are all very proud of the latest newsletter. There's a lot of work gone into its design and making. We've added a few new things like the "Five Minutes with..." (this time with Pat), and "Desperately Seeking..." columns. So come on all you Hopeans get signed up on-line, get those records up-to-date and we'll be able to send you a copy.

We're having an away-day next Tuesday; Getting out of the office to talk seriously about the direction of things for the future; What we should be doing to liven up our community. One issue high on the agenda is how we can increase awareness of the Graduate Association amongst the final year students. We need them to engage with their community before they leave the campus next year. The more feedback we get from them the more relevant will be the services and benefits we can offer them after they have left for the world of work.