Tag Archives: voluntary & community sector

Meet Cyril Wilmslow, volunteer extraordinaire

Meet Cyril Wilmslow, volunteer extraordinaire

This post, a bit of light relief from the academic writing, introduces a new fictional character, Cyril Wilmslow, volunteer extraordinaire.

Cyril Wilmslow’s discomfort was painfully obvious as he attempted to secure his seat in the already crowded gallery.  Close physical proximity, especially to those of his own kind, was something he tried to avoid – touching was out of the question.  Cyril shuddered visibly as he inevitably brushed past the well-rounded nylon clad knees of an immaculately attired, over odourised middle-aged lady who looked up and beamed invitingly.  She made no attempt to lean the other way and appeared to relish his unease.

Being a gentleman, Cyril grappled for the right words to apologise for his ungallant infringement of her personal space.  To his dismay he instead erupted with a senseless blustery gasp as he pressed his corpulent gut over the balustrade whilst straining to save, not hers, but his own blushes.  His blazing red cheeks, his flaxen hair plastered across his hot forehead and his cobalt waistcoat created above all, a patriotic vision of red, white and blue – a vision which, in different circumstances, Cyril would have most heartily approved of.

Cyril finally managed to squeeze his frame into the only remaining gap, next to the smiling lady.  As soon as he sat down, she gently tilted towards him as if anticipating his manly protection from what they were about to witness.  There seemed to be no escape.  He would have to remain at close range for the duration.

‘I fear the shock of what’s to come may be too much for me to bear,’ she sighed, clearly seeking comfort before the proceedings had even begun.

Cyril had that effect on people.  As he would remind his wife every morning at breakfast,

‘I have an aura of compassion that draws the sad and the sick wherever I go, Mrs W.’

In fact, the conversation at breakfast just an hour earlier had followed the usual pattern.  Sitting at an immaculately laid breakfast table, Cyril tucked in his napkin and consumed his bran flakes with military precision, starting with the top of the bowl and working his way downwards in a clockwise motion.  As ever, Cyril was oblivious to the clanking that reverberated around the small kitchen as he used his spoon to round up any deviant flakes, and oblivious to Mrs W’s flinching.   Mrs W never complained, so how could he possibly know that the sound drove her to distraction every morning?

In truth, Cyril was a real stickler for good table manners, always the first to spot the foul misdeeds of a fellow diner such as shovelling peas and what he contemptuously regarded as ‘chomping’.  He struggled immensely with the communal dining experience in the staff canteen and could not help scowling at offenders, making them feel dreadfully uneasy.  They could not know what they had done to displease but would be left in no doubt that whatever it was, their sin would never be absolved.

That morning at breakfast Cyril picked up his neatly folded Cambridge News and glanced at the headlines,

STUDENT IN DEATH PLUNGE TRAGEDY

‘Oh dear Mrs W’ he exclaimed, ‘another blessed soul has slipped through the net.’

Mrs W, waiting for Cyril to hand over his empty cereal bowl in exchange for a quieter plateful of mushrooms and scrambled eggs, asked,

‘Pardon, what’s that dear?’

Irritated at having to repeat himself Cyril retorted loudly, ‘I said yet another blessed soul slips through the next.  I would’ve talked him out of it.  Convinced him that life’s always worth living!’

Mrs W, a consistent and compliant player in the breakfast liturgy, declared,

‘Perhaps I shouldn’t say it Mr W but you’re a pillar of society, you are the life-blood of the Cambridge Samaritans!’

Cyril could not agree more but knew it would appear conceited to say so.  Yes, it was true.  Total strangers told him their life stories, their tragedies and tales – at the Coop checkout, on the guided bus and in the queue at the post office.  That was why he did what he did; one night a week as a Good Samaritan and one day a week as a Witness Service Volunteer, comforting the victims and witnesses of all manner of crimes.

Back on the gallery, resigned to the burden of consoling his new neighbour, Cyril made himself as comfortable as he could.  Looking around, he admired the symbols of office with reverence and reflection, sharing an acute sense of occasion with everyone present, officials and public alike.  The solemnity of the audacious yet utilitarian backdrop, designed by the town cemetery architect did not appear to dampen the anticipation of what could well turn out to be the best show in town.

Cyril had been here many times before but today was different.  This time he was a member of the public and he had personal knowledge of the major protagonist.

All present were about to be both fascinated and repulsed.

More to follow after the PhD…

 

 

Structuring community: resilience or resistance?

Structuring community: resilience or resistance?

This post is prompted by Lynne Berry’s keynote at the ‘Turning the Corner’ Conference, Anglia Ruskin University, September 2014.  Lynne Berry OBE is Chair of the Commission on the Voluntary Sector & Ageing.

In her address Berry contemplated the future of volunteering over the next twenty years in the context of our ageing population and the new legislation on health and social care. She wondered if the current structure of charitable organisations would survive and talked of building a new narrative and of specialist roles including providers of ‘mutual support’.  She also invited us to consider volunteering organisations from a different angle, posing the possibility of,

‘a new structure for new sorts of ‘being there’ services.’

The suggestion that we need a structure for ‘being there’, and the implication that the very act of ‘being there’ could be construed as a voluntary service, prompts a number of questions about volunteering.  In my post on, ‘Why extreme volunteering is too extreme’ (January 2014), I warn against the danger of ignoring basic needs, such as having some form of day-to-day human contact, which can be met via a simple act of kindness, no matter how small (this was in response to Lindsay Levkoff Lynn’s 2014 prediction for NESTA about extreme volunteering).  In this post I consider the question of ‘structure’ in the context of Berry’s invitation.  In my next I will consider the question of ‘services’.

It’s not that I’m against structure as such.  As a sociologist I spend much of my time observing and thinking about structure in society.  However, in working towards the final conclusion of my doctoral thesis on community inside higher education, I do find myself questioning the utility of structure as applied to the notion of a university community – a task that is especially challenging when, as a researcher, I find myself at different times inside or on the margins of that community, depending on the day, the role, the task and so on.

Sarah Mann considers alienation in the learning community in the context of online learning environments and cites Derrida’s understanding of community as something that has ‘an inside and an outside’ (Caputo 1997).  The word ‘community’ can presuppose the idea of exclusion and as Mann says,

‘belonging and sharing in common imply not belonging and sharing in common.’ (my emphasis)

Mann concludes that belonging or having a shared purpose is not at issue.  Rather, what seems to be at issue is the opening up of possibilities for expression (e.g. seeking understanding; making explicit norms and assumptions in order to question and configure them more appropriately; and voicing different experiences, histories and positions, and having these accounts heard).  Facilitating dialogue is more critical than establishing a sense of belonging, in the quest for reducing alienation (Mann 2005).

In my thesis I ask whether a sense of ‘community’ is somehow structured, or if not, should it be; that is, imposed and regulated.  UEA’s Corporate Plan 2008-2012 for example, declared, ‘we are a scholarly community within a wider community… the cohesion of our own community depends on parity of esteem and a sense of collegiality and mutual obligation.’

Mann describes a ‘dynamic of compliance’ which pulls teachers and learners towards a ‘surface form of harmony’ – sound familiar?

I’m drawn towards Mann’s suggestion that we resist the idea of certainty contained in a consensus-based (or more structured) view of community, ‘in order to maintain openness to the possibility that the future might bring something which is as yet unimagined or unknown.’

Ron Barnett, in acknowledging the existence of structure, or structures in the contemporary university, concludes that the space for an academic community to be an academic community is shrinking and that structure as such may tend to obtrude into the human relationships of a community.  There is too much structure (Barnett 2004).

So, where does this leave Berry’s proposal for ‘a new structure for new sorts of ‘being there’ services’?

Perhaps we should think of ‘being there’ as a form of structuring itself.  After all, as Berry stated in May 2009, there is a, ‘mutuality that engages us all.’

‘…Ties that bind. Contacts that help build strong, cohesive and resilient communities. These acts of citizenship build communities that can withstand snowstorms, unemployment, fire and flood…The personal experience of volunteering helps build lives and communities; and through the power of volunteering we can make a difference.  We all need help sometimes.’ (Berry 2009)

If this is a form of structuring within society, how might it relate to the notion of, ‘a new structure for new sorts of ‘being there’ services’?

Was Berry envisaging the emergence of new organisational forms, arising from communities, or was she telling existing community organisations to transform themselves, to re-structure?  Her audience at Anglia Ruskin in September comprised representatives from charities and social enterprise.  All no doubt, concerned about their future role and indeed, existence.  I was there representing ARVAC, the Association for Research in the Voluntary & Community Sector.

Professor Jenny Pearce assessed the potential of community organising in the UK at the ARVAC 2014 Annual Lecture.  Writing in the ARVAC Bulletin (Issue 121), Pearce discusses the possibility of a ‘resistant citizenship’ which may be short of ‘activism’ but could still amount to a new form of organising in the community that contributes to a, ‘greater sense of belonging to place and more intra and inter neighbourhood relationships capable of giving voice to local needs.’

On the face of it, the Berry and Pearce descriptions are similar – ‘ties that bind’, ‘intra and inter neighbourhood relationships’.  However, a significant difference is their use of the terms ‘resilient’ (Berry) and ‘resistant’ (Pearce).  Resilient communities may ensure their survival but they do not necessarily challenge the current social order; they are more likely to reproduce it.  Resistant communities have the potential to challenge and change the social order.

Also, whilst Berry endorsed the role of the voluntary sector as a campaigner at her Anglia Ruskin address, I suspect she does not envisage the sector’s role as an agent for change.  In an interview with Third Sector in January 2014, Berry referred to the future charity workforce as a ‘post-employment group of portfolio workers’, drawn from a growing group of people who are retired for up to twenty years; a group that will have a lot to offer but will have high expectations of the charities they support.  She said, ‘this generation will contain a lot of stroppy older women who want a bit more.’  That’s about as radical as it gets.

According to Pearce, citizens today are offered the role of consumers and little else.  I wonder if Berry is offering much the same.

What real purpose would Berry’s new structure serve – resilience or resistance?

In my next post I will consider what ‘services’ may mean in this context.

The ARVAC AGM and Annual Conference, on ‘Talking out of turn: getting community voices heard’ is taking place at The Circle in Sheffield on 20th November 2014.

Book your place here – www.arvactalkingoutofturn14.eventbrite.co.uk

References

ARVAC, The Association for Research in the Voluntary & Community Sector http://www.arvac.org.uk/

Barnett, R. (2004). Epilogue: Reclaiming Universities from a Runaway World. Reclaiming Universities from a Runaway World. M. Walker and J. Nixon. New York, Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.

Caputo, John D (1997). Deconstruction in a nutshell: a conversation with Jacques Derrida Fordham University Press

Mann, S. J. (2005). “Alienation in the learning environment: a failure of community?” Studies in Higher Education 30(1): 43-55.

http://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/news-and-events/news/Lynne-Berry-launches-WRVS–first-independent-Social-Impact-Report- [accessed 25th October 2014]

http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/interview-lynne-berry/management/article/1226660 [accessed 25th October 2014]

 

 

On moving over to the other side

On moving over to the other side

Early one morning recently I bumped into a colleague on campus who I’d not seen for a while.  He greeted me with the exclamation, ‘I hear you’ve moved over, Julie!’  Knowing exactly what he meant, I smiled and confirmed that yes, indeed, I had resigned from my management role; that I was now working as a research fellow and completing my PhD.  He kindly asked about the topic of the doctorate, wished me luck and went on his way.

This exchange came at a time when for me, as Schostak says,

‘the pragmatics give way to the lonely yet exhilarating reflections on ‘life’, ‘purpose’, ‘meaning’, ‘self’ and ‘otherness.’ (Schostak, 2002 p35)

The moment I completely gave up my ‘new management’ role (I had been part-time for a while) it all went quiet.  I don’t mean the embarrassed silence in the departmental meeting when I announced my impending move to a research role (I should’ve seen that coming).  I mean the absence of the day-to-day jingle jangle of new management;  the groans at yet another abuse of the university brand guidelines, the ‘kill Kodak’ rallying cries in the race for admissions, the laments over another conference crisis, the gripes about phone calls from eccentric alumni and rude remarks about former colleagues who had ‘moved over’ to the other side.  I could at last, on the other side, hear myself think.

(It also came at a time when four friends, Andrew, Estella, Jasper and Friso, died together on flight MH17.  We had been with Andrew and the boys on the Easter trip this year and whilst we were not particularly close, their sudden loss in this way shook my understanding of ‘moving to the other side’ in a very different context.  I’m still thinking that one through.)

I am of course still a member of the university community.  And it is far from lonely.

In examining morale in university life, David Watson, who sees universities as ‘membership organisations’, acknowledges the complex and contradictory nature of higher education and suggests that the mesh of psychological contracts, or ‘deals’ that it involves,

‘make much of the current discourse about happiness and unhappiness in contemporary life look simplistic and banal.’ (Watson, 2009 p3)

I wonder if this is so different from other sectors.  I recall difficult times at Norwich City Council in the 1990s with round after round of cuts;  when as managers we had to attend a ‘star chamber’ and justify the continued existence of our service.  I remember, despite some success, a palpable sense of bereavement as my own organisation suffered repeated losses of assets and morale.  I don’t imagine it is any easier in the current economic climate.

Watson repeats the tale that vice-chancellors like to tell each other – go around your university or college and ask the first ten people who you meet how their morale is and the response will always be ‘rock bottom’.  Ask them what they’re working on and the response will be full of life, optimism and of enthusiasm for the task in hand.

This almost certainly applies just as much in public and voluntary organisations. Generally, people care about what they do and they want to make a difference.

Jon Nixon, who writes about the moral bases of academic professionalism, describes academic practitioners as members of a ‘highly differentiated workforce’ having to ‘hammer out their sense of purposefulness within an institutional context which is morally fractured.’ (Nixon, 2008 p14)

Why this matters especially in higher education as opposed to elsewhere is that, according to Nixon, the university is the one place where we can, indeed must, ask awkward questions about why we do what we do.

I couldn’t agree more.  In the university we should have the space and the freedom to think the unthinkable.  It is what universities are for.

However, Nixon goes on to say that the task is virtually impossible in a context where the leaders of our institutions have ‘deserted the field’.  Their abdication of moral responsibility for the university sector as a whole represents a serious ‘failure of nerve’.

Perhaps, as practitioners on the ground we need to become subversive and move into the liminal space that enables us to breathe a different air.

Gary Rolfe, in echoing Bourdieu’s ‘community of unconsciousness’ offers freedom (and possibly happiness) via a parallel existence in his ‘paraversity’ with its ‘organic, fluid, rhizomatic, evolving community of thought’ in which the ‘values-based’ researcher and lecturer have the ‘freedom to be good.’ (Rolfe, 2013)

What a shame his invitation is to academic staff only.  His freedom, exercised by a ‘community of critical friends committed to the process of thinking together’ appears to be denied to those who he describes as the ‘ever-expanding administrative class’ thereby implying that the very opportunity to be good is the sole domain of the academic.

I may have ‘moved over’ but I’d like to assert a right for all members of the university, academic and administrative alike, to join in the thinking;  to be ‘values-based’, whatever their role, and to experience the freedom to be good.

Why have sides?

References

Nixon, J (2008) Towards the Virtuous University: The Moral Bases of Academic Practice New York, Routledge

Rolfe, G (2013) The University in Dissent: Scholarship in the Corporate University London, SRHE

Schostak, J (2002) Understanding, Designing and Conducting Qualitative Research in Education, Buckingham, Open University Press

Watson, D (2009) The Question of Morale: Managing Happiness and Unhappiness in University Life, Maidenhead, Open University Press & McGraw Hill Education

 

Conviviality with a cause

Conviviality with a cause

This is the second of two posts prompted by a reading of Colin Rochester’s publication ‘Rediscovering Voluntary Action: The Beat of a Different Drum’ (2013) Palgrave Macmillan

My first post, entitled, ‘The marketisation marvel in higher education’ (26th March 2014) included observations about the relationship between the state and the voluntary & community sector:

http://jebounford.net/the-marketisation-marvel-in-higher-education/

This post is about voluntary action and the research agenda.

In critically appraising the historiography of voluntary action, Rochester embraces notions of ‘conviviality’ and ‘expressive behaviour’, providing a fresh insight into the roots of volunteering.  Breaking free of a ‘narrow paradigm’, he looks beyond the restrictive archetype of volunteering as a philanthropic act and explores what he describes as a desire for ‘conviviality’ that is closely allied to recreational activities and the constructive use of leisure time.  I don’t believe for a moment that Rochester is claiming we use all our spare time for idle pursuits.  I do believe that he is retelling the traditional chronicle and in doing so, providing a new lens through which we may see the act of volunteering as ‘serious leisure’; a term used by Rochester as he works towards his, ‘truly ‘round earth’ map of the territory’.

Rochester draws upon Hemming’s conclusion that participation in volunteer groups provides, ‘a sense of camaraderie and fellowship; a sense of belonging or identity; and above all, ‘an excuse to escape’ and ‘an adult form of play’.  It contributes to a sense of community (Hemming 2011).  He believes ‘expressive’ volunteering enables people to pursue an interest out of love for the activity rather than financial reward, and to act upon their most cherished beliefs.

In my blog entitled, ‘Why ‘extreme’ volunteering is too extreme’ (31st Jan 2014), I pleaded for us not to ignore the mundane, as without it, society would come unstuck; meeting basic needs, such as having some form of day-to-day human contact via a simple act of kindness, no matter how small:

http://jebounford.net/why-extreme-volunteering-is-too-extreme/

It’s about community on many levels.  Since moving to Great Gransden, for example, I’ve been struck by the way in which the expressive and the mundane are fused in friendships of all kinds, in all scenarios, responding to need, and sharing recreation, joy and troubled times.

I would call it conviviality with a cause.

Rochester also calls for a radical revision of the research agenda in this field.  Critical of an academic tradition that has, ‘not produced much in the way of additional ‘usable theory’’ (his ‘honourable exceptions’ include Horton Smith 2000, Lohmann 1992 and Milofsky 2008), he wants research to move away from quantitative methods, that is, collecting evidence by measuring e.g. organisations, resources and time spent on volunteering.  Existing qualitative research is also judged to be of limited scope, diverting attention from what volunteers actually do, and how they work together; what is the balance – or tension – between expressive aims (or member benefit) and instrumental aims (or public benefit)?; why and how do people join non-bureaucratic groups?; how is the ‘work’ of the group organised?  He says we need qualitative research that develops ‘usable’ theories to explain ‘how things work’.

In attempting to move away from the concentration on measuring the instrumental impacts of volunteering, Rochester looks to the IVR Impact Assessment Toolkit which groups ‘the major ways in which stakeholders can be affected’ into five types of ‘capital’ – physical, human, economic, social and cultural.  He clearly approves of this societal level analysis, saying it captures much – but not all – of the constellation of roles and functions played by volunteering.  Social capital, for example, contributes to the creation of a ‘more cohesive community through building relationships, networks and bond of trust between people’.

My concern is that having criticised a ‘dominate paradigm’ that characterises volunteering as a gift of time (analogous to a gift of money) Rochester then appears to endorse the notion of capital which itself is contested as a tool of analysis in certain academic quarters.  For example, Bev Skeggs, in her 2013 BJS Annual Public Lecture last October, concluded that as sociologists we have a duty not to reproduce the logic of capital in everything we analyse.  In applying the logic of capital we convert everything into commodity.  We become the subject of capital and we internalise its imperatives.

http://www.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=2057

I am currently grappling with this issue in my own research where I am asking if ‘community’ may be construed as a form of capital and exploring the conditions necessary for the existence of community inside the academy.  I am, for example, seeking signifiers of personal, physical and institutional attributes that may reveal the existence of ‘community’ capital.  Last week my supervisor asked me how I intended to ‘measure’ these forms of capital.  I didn’t have an answer and, to be honest, that doesn’t worry me.

As I work through the final analysis, I am minded to heed Skeggs’ call for us to look for where the theories don’t work, where they can’t be applied.  This is where, in my view, Rochester’s plea for us to embrace the expressive and Skeggs’ entreaty for the expression of ‘values beyond value’, come together.

I’m now wondering how ‘community’ may be understood in its expressive form… in 2015 I may have an answer.

References

Bev Skeggs, ‘Values beyond value? Is anything beyond the logic of capital?’

2013 BJS Annual Public Lecture, given at the London School of Economics on 17th October 2013 –

http://www.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=2057

Hemming, H. (2011) Together: How Small Groups Achieve Big Things, London: John Murray

Lohmann, R. (1992) The Commons: New Perspectives on Nonprofit Organisations and Voluntary Action, San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass

Milofsky, C. (2008) Smallville: Institutionalizing Community in Twenty-First Century America, Hanover, NH and London, University Press of New England

Smith, D. H. (2000) Grassroots Associations, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

The marketisation marvel in higher education

The marketisation marvel in higher education

This is the first of two posts prompted by a reading of Colin Rochester’s publication ‘Rediscovering Voluntary Action:  The Beat of a Different Drum’ (2013) Palgrave Macmillan

After 45 years of working with and writing about, volunteers and voluntary organisations, Rochester is better qualified than most to stimulate and inform a debate about the notion of a ‘invented’ unified voluntary and community sector in the UK; to observe the nature of the relationship between government and this sector as it takes on the ‘mainstream’ delivery of state services; to revise the typology of voluntary action; and to call for a radical revision of the research agenda in this field.  My second post will be about voluntary action and the research agenda.

Rochester’s seminal work is published against the background of the rise and rise of a neo-liberal discourse that has seeped into every aspect of our lives.  It is a refreshing and timely addition to the congregation that is calling for a different approach to how we understand what it is to be a person in the western world; an approach that enables us to acknowledge and embrace expression as a form of sociality and being.

The beginning of the neo-liberal agenda in this country, in this context, is marked as the election of the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher in 1979 which Rochester sees as a milestone, alongside 1945; a marker of a new phase of political and social history.  As many have observed elsewhere, this agenda continued to thrive through the New Labour administrations and we now have a new multi-party consensus about the, ‘parameters and driving forces of public and social policy’.  Rochester declares that the rise of neo-liberalism has led to the permeation of voluntary organisations and volunteering by the values and norms of the market as part of a profound and far-reaching change in the political culture, not only of the UK but also of much of the World.

No doubt Rochester would agree that these market values and norms have pervaded many domains of our existence; personal and professional.  The marketisation of higher education, for example, observed daily by those of us who work in the sector, gained impetus this month with the publication of the OFT Call for Information on Higher Education in England.  In response to the OFT findings, Paul Clarke (Director of Policy at Universities UK), acknowledges that in the opinion of the OFT, some higher education structures and practices, ‘belong to an era that has now passed.’  The parallels between Rochester’s analysis of the voluntary & community sector and what is happening in higher education today are striking.

According to Rochester, the ‘invention’ of a unified voluntary sector in Britain facilitated the casting of voluntary sector organisations in a more central role on the stage of social policy in the delivery of state services.  He describes the promotion of a unified voluntary sector as a ‘massive sleight of hand’, whereby the organisational norms of bureaucracy and the culture and practices of the private sector has ensured that the real beneficiaries of this greater role in the provision of state services are the top two percent of voluntary agencies including NCVO and ACEVO, and those in government bent on privatising public services.  He says that Government has been able to implement its policies under the cloak of ‘public esteem for charities’ and the argument that voluntary organisations have distinctive characteristics which given them ‘unique’ advantages over statutory bureaucracies.

Rochester questions these ‘distinctive’ characteristics as he observes the increasing homogenisation of the voluntary and community sector.  He is not referring to all voluntary organisations but the small minority that have been trusted with this new role of providing state services.  He says they are unrepresentative and that they have, ‘more in common with the agencies they have supplanted than they have with the bulk of the organisations that comprise the sector and provide the evidence for the characteristics featured in government rhetoric.’

My experience of working as a manager in the public and voluntary sectors concurs with Rochester’s observations.  Indeed, as a boundary-crosser, moving between these sectors (and then into higher education), it could be argued that I have been culpable in transmitting new managerial norms and practices from one sector to the next.  Rochester is particularly critical of the infrastructure organisations, the CVSs which have actively played their part through initiatives such as the ChangeUp programme and says that voluntary organisations have been, ‘nudged, bribed and sometimes coerced into becoming more and more similar in their structure and behaviour to the bureaucratic agencies of the state and the market.’

As someone who has been involved with the voluntary sector as a volunteer and as a manager, I have observed the colonisation of some of the larger charities by former local government employees who have in many respects turned their charities into the mirror image of the organisations they had left behind.  And in the circumstances you can hardly blame them.  As Rochester points out, the biggest voluntary organisations have been given a more central role in the delivery of public services and have gained substantial new resources as a result.

Rochester concludes that the models of business organisations have come to dominate our society and social institutions over the past thirty years.  He says that being ‘business-like’ was the ‘desirable characteristic’ and this meant imitating the approaches and techniques used in the private sector without questioning how appropriate and/or helpful they might be in organisations that were based on very different values and principles.

Many of us can bear witness to a similar trend in higher education.  What has elsewhere been described as the ‘economic ideology of education’ is a phenomenon much debated. But it is not a recent revelation.  In 1890 German university professors complained that their world was increasingly dominated by blind economic processes, by the power of money, and by the weight of numbers (Salter and Tapper 1994).  In universities today, this manifests itself in a discourse and managerial structure dominated by enterprise and an emulation of the business world.  As a member of the new management clan in a university, I am no innocent bystander though at times it feels like I’m drowning in an alien discourse that bears little or no resemblance to my own academic practice.

According to Rochester, many voluntary organisations have lost sight of their original purposes and functions, and apart from not distributing their profits or surpluses as dividends, they are indistinguishable from private sector companies.  I believe that universities ARE still distinguishable from private sector companies.

As the marketisation marvel glides confidently into the admissions arena, I hear colleagues declare “it’s official, we are now a ‘private enterprise’”.

Really?

This post represents my own views and not those of my institution.

References:

OFT report: higher education is a market, but the student-university relationship remains unique – UUK Blog posted on 14 March 2014 by Paul Clark

http://blog.universitiesuk.ac.uk/2014/03/14/oft-report-higher-education/

Salter, B. and Tapper, T (1994) The State and Higher Education The Woburn Press