Have university “students” turned into “consumers”, more anxious to get value for money for their fees and loans, than to expand their minds? How have traditional subjects – like Classics – fared in this last round of expansion in higher education?
The answers aren’t quite as simple as you think (“yes” and “badly”). In fact, just before I left for the conference in Italy I did an interview for an “Analysis” programme on Radio 4, which is taking a careful look at the debates and discontents around the twenty-first century university. It is being broadcast tonight, repeated on Sunday.
I am usually a bit nervous about this kind of thing. Whatever you actually say, it’s all too easy if you’re in my position to get edited into something that sounds like a cross between an Oxbridge toff and Marie-Antoinette: “Let them learn Latin”.
But I tend do such interviews anyway, on the not wholly worthy grounds that I’d rather it was me having my say than someone else. And on this occasion the programme was being put together by Ruth Scurr (biographer of Robespierre and historian in Cambridge) who wasn’t likely to play fast and loose with my no doubt elitist stumblings.
One of the questions was along the lines of “Why should the state pay for university courses in Latin and Greek”.