As we draw nearer to the Xmas break this is the time when stories emerge to guide us through the shambles in which we find ourselves. Of course, we always were in a state of confusion but the events of the last year have made the nature of what is around us much clearer. The beast has come out of the shadows and is showing its face. We have made a terrible mistake and as the flaming omnishambles of the UA92 project is revealed, the one option that nobody seems to want to discuss is the one that would cause the most embarrassment in the short term and the least pain in the long run: cancelling the whole thing and moving on. In this there are many parallels with Brexit, not least that the decision to go ahead came about through the same mixture of ignorance, complacency and wishful thinking.
As with Brexit, those charged with trying to make it work are facing an impossible task. If UA92 degrees are to be accepted as being on a par with Lancaster degrees (as promised on its website), they must meet the same quality assurance requirements. Anyone who has had to steer a new module proposal, much less a new degree scheme, through the QA process will know just how exacting it is. However, the UA92 degree model is the polar opposite of Lancaster’s. The core is ‘personal development’, not academic achievement, and the role of traditional study is to be a supporting mechanism in enabling that to happen. It would be like telling our own students that the Lancaster Award is more important in getting their degrees than, say, a well-argued dissertation. How will this be consistent with MARP? Unfortunately, our already overworked staff are now tasked with trying to square that particular circle. And they don’t have much time to do it. If the target date of September 2019 for UA92’s first intake is to be met, everything needs to be ready for UCAS approval and publication by March 2018, just under three months away!
Among many concerns about the UA92 model is the obsessive focus on ‘leadership’ and the bogus implicit assumptions that: a) ‘character’, not social structures and processes, is the primary determinant of individuals’ life chances; and b) roles other than that of ‘leaders’ are inferior, so that a successful/good life can only mean being in a position of dominance relative to others. A (the?) primary job of university is to produce well-informed citizens capable of critical thinking, including being able to see through this kind of nonsense. Unless we do this, we are failing. Those behind the UA92 project are confident that its degrees will be seen to be as good as Lancaster’s. The fear of a growing number of staff is that in time our own degrees will be seen to be only as good as UA92’s.