I note that a very august Council for the Defence of British Universities has been founded and held its inaugural meeting at the British Academy. It has had worldwide press coverage, which can only be good. It has also heavyweight support from outwith the academic community. This is the statement of its Values and Aims.
CDBU exists to advance university education for the public benefit. Its aims are:
To defend and enhance the character of British universities as places where students can develop their capacities to the full, where research and scholarship are pursued at the highest level, and where intellectual activity can be freely conducted without regard to its immediate economic benefit
To urge that university education, both undergraduate and graduate, be accessible to all students who can benefit from it
To maintain the principle that teaching and research are indispensable activities for a university and that one is not pursued at the expense of the other
To ensure that universities, while responding to the needs of students and of society in general, should retain ultimate control of the content of the courses taught and the methods of instruction employed. As well as often providing vocational training, university education should equip graduates with the mental skills and intellectual flexibility necessary to meet the demands of a rapidly changing economy. It should develop the powers of the mind, enlarge knowledge and understanding, and enable graduates to lead fuller and more rewarding lives
To emphasise that, as well as often having vital social and economic applications and being subject to accountability, academic research seeks to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the physical world, of human nature and of all forms of human activity
To ensure that methods employed to assess the quality of university research do not encourage premature or unnecessary publication or inhibit the production of major works of research that require a long period of gestation
To safeguard the freedom of academics to teach and to pursue research and inquiry in the directions appropriate to the needs of their subject
To maintain the principle of institutional autonomy, to encourage academic self-government and to ensure that the function of managerial and administrative staff is that of facilitating teaching and research
To ensure that British universities continue to transmit and reinterpret the world’s cultural and intellectual inheritance, to encourage international exchange and to engage in the independent thought and criticism necessary for the flourishing of any democratic society
I very much hope that it succeeds. To do so it will have to reach out to academics working in all disciplines, and in all kinds of Universities, not just Oxford, Cambridge and London. It will be interesting to see what kind of stance the Council will have towards the Research Councils and
Last season, our 5 – 2 home win against spurs sent us on a run that saw us eventually finish 3rd, and occupy the financially all important Champions League place. Last year, however, we had a relatively settled side and a fit and on form RVP. What can we conclude from today’s 5 -2 victory? First to the match.
Tottenham started the stronger, had a goal disallowed, and scored soon afterwards. Mertesacker and Koscielny were at fault, and defoe ran through behind the defence. Although the keeper blocked his shot, Adebayor was first to the rebound. Adebayor celebrated predictably in front the Arsenal fans. (That’s ok by the way. It adds to the theatre.) Then, on 18 minutes he lost his head and went in for a two-footed, studs-up challenge on Carzola. That tackle made him for the next 70 minutes into the most hated person in North London. Howard Webb, after some reflection, produced a red card. After the sending off Spurs were reeling and disorganized. Arsenal by contrast finally started playing and pressed home their one man advantage. That was good to see. After Mertesacker headed home from Walcott’s excellent cross, Arsenal surged forward. Podolski scored from tight situation, via a deflection, into the corner. Scrappy, yes. But the point is that he stayed strong when challenged in the box, and got a shot off. The third goal in injury time was swept home by Giroud, beating Gallas to the ball, from a cross by Carzola, which he was allowed courtesy of a great decision by Howard Webb to let him play on after being fouled on the edge of the box.
AVB reorganized at half time, substituting the two full-backs for Dawson and Dempsey, and lining up his team in an attacking 3-4-2 formation. Spurs played excellently for the first 15 minutes and had Arsenal on the back foot. Against the run of play, though, Arsenal scored on the break, with Carzola firing home at the end of a sweeping move involving Walcott and Podolski. That said, even at 4-1 up Arsenal did not look comfortable and Spurs were playing well. Spurs’ second goal was well-deserved, hammered home by Bale through Koscielny’s legs, from the edge of the area. Arsenal fans looked on anxiously. Spurs should have scored a third, when Bale ran free down the right and fired a shot to the far post when he probably should have crossed to the onrushing Defoe. Finally, Arsenal started playing properly, given the situation. Instead of trying to rush the ball up to their three strikers, as if they were two goals behind, they slowed the game down and passed and kept possession, making their opponents chase the ball. This worked well, Spurs tired, and eventually Walcott wrapped up proceedings with an unerring finish.
Now what has this match showed us? Well what it does not show is that we are odds on to make the top three or four. We are still fragile in defence. We do not have a first class left back to cover for Gibbs. Vermaelen is a good player, but a makeshift full back. Even though BFG and LK are our best pairing at center half, they are both capable of making serious errors. If you look at the game overall, the 5-2 scoreline was flattering to Arsenal. Last year, in the second half, and towards the end of the first half, we simply overran Spurs, who capitulated. This match was different. Arsenal, with 11 men, pressed home their advantage, scoring 3 when Spurs were lacking in organisation. In the second half we played poorly for the most part, but scored two good breakaway goals. Effectively Arsenal controlled the game only for two periods, in the last 15 minutes of the first half, and in the last 10 minutes of the second. These were crucial periods. And Arsenal were efficient, and made the most of their chances. But Spurs played well, and never capitulated. That attitude augurs well for them this season. If Levy and the Spurs fans hold their nerve and don’t sack AVB, they will eventually rise up the table.
Overall, then it’s a mixed picture. It is good to see Sczesny, back but he is by no means back to his best. He needs a run of games. The defence still have a lot of work to do. We are weak at left back and not exactly solid in the centre. More positively, Giroud is coming into his own. Walcott is beginning to form a partnership with him. If only Walcott could cross well consistently. (Still at least he consistently puts in a good delivery at least 50% of the time.) Given the depth of our squad, we cannot afford to lose him in January, even if he can walk away for nothing in the Summer. Arsenal lack pace, when Walcott is not playing. We can sometimes look cumbersome in midfield. To get the best out of Giroud, we will need pacey players who run the flanks and cross well. At the moment Walcott does that much better than Oxlade-Chamberlain or Gervinho aka ‘Boney M’.
On the positive side, also, our attack is getting better. Giroud now has 7 goals and looks confident. Podolski is effective. Carzola is a little genius, far and away our best player at the moment, although Wilshire is nearly back to his best, and we look a lot more dangerous when he is on the field. Walcott, however, is our top scorer. So, if we are to even hope to finish above the likes of Spurs and Everton or WBA, we need to sign a top quality left back, to keep Walcott, and to work hard at the defensive side of our game. It is by no means a given that this year we will, as we always have before, scramble into the top four places. And we are way way behind the top three teams. It is not just that we are already out of the Championship race; we were really never in it. Ivan Gazidis’ mantra, wait for financial fair play regulation to come in, and then we will be competitive, smells strongly of jam tomorrow. But all true Arsenal fans want jam now, or at least next season. If we do manage to steal into fourth place behind Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs, this year also, it will be deja vu all over again, again.
What is there to say? We were terrible again: ineffective, sluggish, predictable, poor in possession and not great without the ball. Everyone knew that Man U would attack us doen the right flank to expose Santos, and lo and behold they did. True the goal was gifted to RVP by Vermaelen, but still. The curious thing is why Wenger never employs tactics against the opposition. Why not play Walcott up front when we know that United’s centre backs are immobile and can be susceptible against pace? Why not drop Wilshire back, as soon as it is obvious that Rooney has been given the task of preventing Carzola from distributing the ball? It is as if he is confident that Arsenal is good enough to beat other teams by playing their own game well. Well, they clearly are not. The only way to defeat a better team is with tactics.
I’m starting to think that 16 years of always getting into the Champions League places has made Arsenal FC – or at least its directors – complacent. The Champions League is where the money is. And Arsenal have managed to come at least 4th while continuing to sell their best players to their nearest rivals, which makes them stronger and us weaker. Face it, the £25 Million we gained from selling RVP will pale into insignificance if we drop into the tier of 5th to 8th placed also rans in the premiership, which is what we are looking like so far this season.
Meanwhile Walcott and Arshavin look like our best attacking options and cannot get a start. Carzola and Podolski’s form has dipped. Giroud has not yet found his feet. We now have no pace to speak of in the team. Wilshire is going to need time to readjust, and was off the pace.
A new report by the respected Higher Education Policy Institute claims that the Government reforms in Higher Education funding will cost more than 1 billion more than forecast. The huge oversight is due to over optimistic assumptions, unforeseen consequences, and neglect of potential risk factors. That the Government is sticking to this policy bears out the widespread view that the changes had nothing to do with deficit reduction. Even had the Government not been so way out in their forecast, the policy was always going to cost more in the short term. Only later, it was hoped, would the initial increased expenditure begin to be recouped, as students payed back their loans. Ironically, it now turns out that the new funding ‘system’ could easily end up costing more than the original arrangement it replaced. Supposing that the Government is still in power in the medium term, and that it is unlikely to abandon the policy, which was drawn up by the last Labour regime, this leaves only four viable options.
The shortfall can be met from general taxation, so that the Government and taxpayers contribute more.
Student numbers can be held down or brought down further.
Loan subsidies provided by the Government can be reduced, so that students contribute more.
The remaining HEFCE grant can be reduced, which would impact adversely on Research funding or support for STEM subjects.
In my view option 1. is the only viable one. It is probable that the current Government will opt for 2. and or 3. is almost certain to happen because the government have already given themselves the powers to change the loan terms by means of secondary legislation, which would not require the change to be voted on by parliament.