The heads of 150 Universities have backed a letter sent to what passes for a Government at present, telling them that a so-called “no deal Brexit” would be “one of the biggest threats” those institutions have ever faced. This has put the BBC in a dilemma: the Corporation is duty-bound to report the event, but its ridiculous rules on “balance” mean that someone has to be sought out to put the counter argument.
At least the actual news is given to readers first. “Higher education leaders have written to MPs to say it is ;no exaggeration’ to warn that it would take universities ‘decades to recover’ … They say it would undermine scientific research and threaten universities' £21bn contribution to the UK economy”. And there is more.
“A joint letter sent to all MPs on behalf of the heads of 150 UK universities says: ‘Vital research links will be compromised, from new cancer treatments to technologies combating climate change … The valuable exchange of students, staff and knowledge would be seriously damaged,’ adds the letter from university groups including Universities UK, the Russell Group, Guild HE, Million Plus and University Alliance”.
There was this warning. “Dame Janet Beer, president of Universities UK, warned that ‘time is running out’. She says that without ‘cast-iron assurances’ about the UK's access to European research networks, world-leading researchers will be lost to other countries where ‘funding is not at risk’”. So who would provide that counter argument?
As if you need to ask. “But the journalist and educationalist Toby Young, who says he backs a ‘clean Brexit’, dismissed the warning as ‘the usual ultra-Remainer hysteria’, accusing vice-chancellors of ‘fear-mongering’. ‘In the event of a no-deal Brexit, I'm sure the government will use some of that £49bn windfall to compensate British universities for any short-term losses,’ said Mr Young, associate editor of the Spectator magazine”.
So let’s take that drivel one point at a time. One, calling the loathsome Tobes an “educationalist” is an insult to actual educationalists. Two, “the usual ultra-Remainer hysteria” is abuse which he cannot substantiate. Three, there is no £49bn windfall - Tobes just made that up, and that act of deliberate dishonesty alone should have disqualified his contribution. And Four, being a Spectator associate editor is worth not unadjacent to zero.
Moreover, Tobes could not identify a “clean Brexit” if it jumped up and kicked him in the undercarriage. Worse, as David Stilwell has pointed out, Tobes’ practical knowledge of the education sector was as “a man who stepped down from running a secondary school because ‘there was more to it than I realised’”. Also, he may have been eased out.
Phil Baty has also passed sceptical comment on the Beeb’s choice of pundit. “The entire UK higher education sector (in an unprecedented and considered show of unity): Brexit poses a dire risk to our world-class sector & thus to our society … The BBC: it’s okay we’ve got @toadmeister on hand to explain that’s all just hysterical scaremongering”.
What also disqualifies Tobes is his recent politically motivated attack on left-wing commentator Aaron Bastani, with the clear objective of doing some damage. David Osland has to have the last word on that one: “I bet Aaron Bastani got more than one O-level, though”. Tobes shares that distinction with Kelvin McFilth. I’ll just leave that one there.
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