Earlier today, I received an email alerting me to the fact that the University of the West of England’s Academic Board supported a recommendation from the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Group to close all international relations and politics programs.
Apparently, the plan is to refocus the university (one of the ten largest in England) on skills-based learning and vocational courses, which essentially means that arts and social sciences have no place in future plans. As long-time Duck readers know, I think this is a very bad idea — and some much-discussed research strongly supports the value of liberal arts education. Indeed, this research suggests that liberal arts students even out-perform vocationally trained students in the job market. In IR at UWE, 95% of “Students [are] in work / study six months after finishing” their course.
Unsurprisingly, students are very happy with the education they receive at UWE:
In the last five National Student Surveys History at UWE has consistently scored over 90 per cent in the overall satisfaction ratings and Politics at UWE has scored close to 90 per cent. In the 2011 Guardian University League Tables Politics at UWE scored 91 per cent for overall course satisfaction.
Indeed, the students are campaigning to save their programs. They have set up an online petition. They also have a Facebook page. An especially resourceful Politics/IR student at UWE made the following video about the pending decision and the value of the programs:
Readers, if you are willing and able, an email to UWE’s Vice Chancellor, Steven West, stating your opposition to this decision could be helpful. That’s Professor Steven West at Steven.West@uwe.ac.uk. West is a podiatrist.
The actual campaign group on FaceBook can be found here:
I’m not on Facebook, so I linked to the public account for the student organization (PAIRS, or Politics And International Relations Society). The first post there mentions the bad news and links to the group and campaign.
I have a liberal arts undergraduate degree. I’m currently a graduate student in Public and International Affairs at a small liberal arts campus of larger university in Canada. So clearly, I am a supporter, and fan, of such studies. That said, every University doesn’t need to offer them, and having a major university reorient to vocational skills training is a good thing. I can understand why current politics and IR students at UWE are angry and want to save their programs, but in the long run, I don’t think UWE choosing to close their programs is a bad plan, nor is it saying, objectively, that there isn’t value in an education in politics and IR.