June 15, 2003
Universities and the English language

Classicist Dr Peter Jones prefers short and clear words, even if rather badly spelt, to the pseudo-business-speak of the modern British University. Jones mentions the verbal fog that is modern literary criticism, but says that this doesn't matter, because … well, because it doesn't matter, it's only lit. crit. But this business-newspeak is everywhere, he says.

… Take any of the following nouns: aspect, role, development, challenge, context, stakeholder, opportunity, provision, resource, direction, investment, portfolio, policy, programme, skill, track-record, liaison, quality, function, end-user, process, commitment, profile, range, environment, skills, outcome, collaboration. Throw in any of the following adjectives: key, crucial, proven, wide, broad, emerging, expanding, international, ongoing, developing, innovative, pro-active, strong, strategic, organisational, or any of the above nouns used as adjectives (‘policy relevance’, ‘information resource’). String together with verbs such as facilitate, deliver, develop, broaden, enhance, support, encourage, co-ordinate, champion, implement. That’s it. You too can soon be talking about ‘pro-active development opportunities facilitating and delivering an ongoing end-user collaboration process’.

Jones rightly identifies the Thatcher era as the time when this crap crept in. The idea that you should try to run a university like a good business came to mean in practice that the people running universities started talking like bad business managers.

Brian's Education Blog will implement a key, crucial, proven, wide, broad, emerging, expanding, international, ongoing, developing, innovative, pro-active, strong, strategic, but not all that organisational information resource and end-user collaboration process. That means that it will try to be good but may not always succeed, and that you can comment if you like.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:38 PM
Category: Higher education
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