A university in Buxton - a place of extinguished chances or a promise delayed?

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2023 Number 84 & 85

A university in Buxton - a place of extinguished chances or a promise delayed?
David Davies pages 72-89
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.84-85.04.2023


The University of Derby opened a new university campus in Buxton in 2000. The aim was to produce a socially desirable outcome - better prospects for jobs and lives, and more freedom through learning. The university would help people overcome limits on their lives by openly examining them: the true purpose of education. It represented a challenge to the neoliberal idea that the vitally important social and economic function of learning could be left to market forces. Like many former industrial centres, the town needed to re-invent itself and find creative ways to adapt to the new economic realities. Buxton was different from almost anywhere else in the UK because it offered further and higher education on a single campus, with a unified staffing structure and a single academic management. It offered vocational degrees such as Tourism and Hospitality, Outdoor Pursuits and further education teacher training. In November 2019, however, it was announced that all HE courses at the campus would be closed. The story of this abrupt volte face raises many questions about the way higher education is run in the UK today. The decision was made as if the central university was a business with different cost centres. The article explores the background to this story: it covers wider issues such the chaotic marketisation of higher education, which appeared to offer choice but in fact was managed in such a way as to privileged existing elite institutions; the rules of a numbers game that favoured approaches based on conservatism and corporate uniformity, so that campuses are no longer able to reflect the diversity of our communities; the running of universities as businesses, so that educational concerns are excluded from decision-making; the centralisation of control by those who restrict to themselves the ability to collect and analyse the metrics which are used to legitimise and justify decisions; and the arbitrary power of Vice Chancellors. Ultimately, the closure was the result of a management system that was no longer commensurate with the university’s stated commitment to the opening up of higher education to a wider range of people.

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To cite this article
David Davies (2023) A university in Buxton - a place of extinguished chances or a promise delayed?, Soundings, 2023(84 & 85 ), 72-89. https://doi.org/10.3898/SOUN.84-85.04.2023

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