The Guardian~Observer Editorial – Higher Education: For Too Long, We’ve Avoided Debating The True Purpose Of Universities

booksGuardian-Observer, May 25, 2014. What is the value of an ivory tower? Universities have long argued against a purely utilitarian measure, rightly challenging the notion that it can be measured in pounds and pence. But when a version of the question was put to several thousand undergraduates in research published last week, one in three said they were getting poor value for money for their degree.

Such a standard has never been central to the debate about our universities. Britain has always punched far above its weight in international league tables and universities have been fierce watchdogs of their independence, claiming interference from the outside would undermine the autonomy from which their very value is derived.

Add to this the difficulty of putting a price on enlightenment and intellectual advancement, and the relatively modest public spend on universities compared with schools or hospitals, and it is easy to see why. Even with pressure on public budgets, the sharp increase in numbers going to university and escalating student fees, the debate has been about how much students and the state should pay, not what the money should be spent on.

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William Deresiewicz – Faulty Towers: The Crisis in Higher Education

The Nation. May 23, 2011. The exploitation of contingent labor, a shrinking middle class, administrative elephantiasis: the turmoil in academia is a microcosm of American society as a whole.
A few years ago, when I was still teaching at Yale, I was approached by a student who was interested in going to graduate school. She had her eye on Columbia; did I know someone there she could talk with? I did, an old professor of mine. But when I wrote to arrange the introduction, he refused to even meet with her. “I won’t talk to students about graduate school anymore,” he explained. “Going to grad school’s a suicide mission.”

The policy may be extreme, but the feeling is universal. Most professors I know are willing to talk with students about pursuing a PhD, but their advice comes down to three words: don’t do it. (William Pannapacker, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education as Thomas Benton, has been making this argument for years. See “The Big Lie About the ‘Life of the Mind,’” among other essays.) My own advice was never that categorical. Go if you feel that your happiness depends on it—it can be a great experience in many ways—but be aware of what you’re in for. You’re going to be in school for at least seven years, probably more like nine, and there’s a very good chance that you won’t get a job at the end of it.

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Kate Wilkinson – Factsheet: The Housing Situation In South Africa

The provision of housing in South Africa was described as one of the country’s biggest challenges in 1994. But what is the situation now? How many houses have been delivered? And how many more are needed? This factsheet  looks at the housing situation in South Africa.

How big is the housing backlog?

A woman gets water for her washing in Alexandra township of Johannesburg. Photo: Alexander Joe/AFP

A 1994 housing white paper described providing housing to the South Africa’s citizens as one of the greatest challenges facing government. It estimated that the urban housing backlog stood at about 1.5 million houses and that the backlog was growing at a rate of 178,000 units a year.
The 1996 national census revealed that 1.4 million shacks or informal dwellings remained in the country. This represented 16% of the 9-million households in South Africa at the time.
By 2011, the census showed that the number of shacks and informal dwellings had increased to about 1.9-million. However, this then represented about 13% of all households in the country – a decrease of three percentage points since 1996.
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Africa Check a non-partisan organisation which promotes accuracy in public debate and the media. Twitter @AfricaCheck and

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Social Housing Regulatory Authority Publications

The Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) Publications is a South African regulatory organisation formed with the mandate to deliver affordable rental housing, and regulate social housing institutions and the private sector. The SHRA has published  an impressive list of resources and studies on their website on social housing.

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Human Right Watch – Shattered Dreams ~ Impact Of Spain’s Housing Crisis On Vulnerable Groups May 2014. This 81-page report documents the hardships faced by families who lose their homes after defaulting on mortgage payments amid Spain’s economic recession and massive unemployment. The report is based on in-depth interviews with 44 women and men who have experienced or were facing eviction, civil society organizations, and government officials. Immigrants, women who head households or are victims of economic abuse from a former partner, and children are among the affected groups, Human Rights Watch found.

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Rick Anderson – University Presses: “Under Fire” Or Just Under the Gun (Like The Rest Of Us)?

bookshelfScholarly Kitchen, May 2014.recent article in The Nation, titled “University Presses under Fire,” sounds an alarm about the current state of and future prospects for university presses, and in so doing trots out the usual bugbears: the corporatization of the academy; a disruptively digital information environment; high-priced science journals that are siphoning library money out of book allocations and into subscription budgets.
These bugbears are real, of course. But they are also much more complicated than they might seem at first blush.

Take the term “corporatization,” for example, which in some cases legitimately describes a trend towards inappropriately bottom-line and revenue-driven decision making in academia. However, it may also be invoked to characterize any unpopular administrative decision that reflects the reality of budget limitations and the need to satisfy stakeholders.

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