I want my country back

It’s just over six weeks until the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union. Whether our Government will manage to agree a deal on our departure, though, or whether we’ll just ‘crash out’ without a deal (or, indeed, whether we’ll decide to not leave at all, or to not leave quite yet, or to have a second referendum, or perhaps to have another general election) remains to be seen. It’s all a bit of a mess. And it’s making me quite cross. But what angers me most is not the act of leaving, but rather the mess that this whole sorry affair has made of our country. Continue reading

In Newman’s footsteps

One of the many inevitabilities of higher education policy discussion is that, sooner or later, someone will raise the question of what universities are actually for. So inevitable is this phenomenon, in fact, that I’ve seen it mooted that it be named Newman’s Law, after John Henry Newman, who famously asked this question back in 1852. But in trying to give a definitive answer, I think we’re missing a trick. Because there is no single answer. Rather, there are many. And they are all equally valid. Continue reading

What university did for me

There’s a lot of talk going on about the value of universities and the value for money that a degree course represents for students, taxpayers and society as a whole. Indeed, I’ve been doing a fair bit of the talking. But I’d also like to take a moment to reflect on what my own time at university did for me. Because there’s all too much focus at the moment on graduate jobs and salaries, which are – in my view – only a very small part of the story. Continue reading

Local government in crisis

With each week that passes, it seems that another local authority joins the list of those whose finances have reached crisis point. First it was Northamptonshire County Council that hit the headlines, but top-tier councils in Sussex, Lancashire, Suffolk, Surrey, Torbay and Oxfordshire also seem to be feeling the heat. And Somerset County Council, down the road from me, has just voted through £28 million of cuts over the next two years, leading opposition councillors to describe the council as on the ‘brink of bankruptcy’. Continue reading

Someone to watch over me

It was my mother’s birthday at the weekend and a formal family gathering had been declared. So Molly (my older Labrador) and I headed down to her house on Saturday afternoon, to join my mother and siblings for the celebrations that evening and the next day. Natalie and Ozzy (our five-month-old puppy) stayed at home, the latter not yet ready to face the full force of my family. Continue reading

Enter the Doughnut

Doughnut Economics.jpgI’m not an economist. But I do know that economics is broken. The economic models of the past have created a world in which human well-being and our planet’s natural resources are being sacrificed on the altar of economic growth.

These models have failed to predict, to prevent or to respond to the financial crises that have shaken our society. They have allowed inequality to flourish. And yet they are still taught in classrooms and lecture theatres across the world.

We need a new way of thinking about economics. And we need it now. Continue reading

A more radical National Trust? Let’s do it.

The new Director General of the National Trust, Hilary McGrady, has told the BBC that the charity needs to be more radical, taking a different approach to conserving the buildings and land that it owns. So here’s an idea. Let’s turn the National Trust into one of the country’s largest providers of affordable housing for hard-working families. Continue reading

Our greater challenge… and why I’m not entirely optimistic about our chances

A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I were out campaigning for the country to be given a say on whatever Brexit deal our Government manages to negotiate with the European Union. As I was blowing up some balloons (never let it be said that I do things half-heartedly), a chap in his early sixties marched past, newspaper in hand.

“Less than a year to go until we get our country back,” he grinned.

“Er, yes. Good luck with that,” I replied.

Needless to say, I didn’t offer him a balloon. Continue reading