Inside the University of Cambridge in the Modern World

Higher education policy is a subject drawing together political and educational questions, and also more profound questions about the purpose of universities and their value to society. This study is offered at a time when these matters have become the subject of heated political debate and are, for the first time in history, of widespread popular concern.

Government policy has been driven in the last decade or so by a determination to ensure that the work of universities benefits society and costs as little public money as possible. At the same time, universities have been encouraged to seek funding from industry and business. All this has gone forward with little thought about the consequences, though there have been some well-publicized episodes questioning the reliability of research funded by a business which thought it was buying the results it wanted. Government pressure has also sought to force universities to alter their management structures so that they behave more like businesses, interfering in their organization of their own affairs, while calling for a lighter regulatory burden.

Among the universities which have been most affected is Cambridge. This is a study which takes stock of the debate, giving an insider’s account of the recent history of the University of Cambridge within this wider context. It seeks to make a contribution to both the history of the University, which is told here with considerable frankness, and to the process of analysis which is now needed if Government policy is to be evaluated and adjusted, so as to protect the lasting contribution of universities to society.


“This immensely scholarly book provides an in-depth analysis of the governance of universities in general and Cambridge University in particular…..This is an important contribution to an important subject. It lifts the lid on Cambridge University, but the issues that it raises will resonate in the senior common rooms of universities throughout the UK and beyond…..It is written with pace and wit, and ….the author’s comments and interpretations are always thoughtful and judicious. Anyone who is concerned about higher education will learn a lot from it….” – Professor Andrew Colman, University of Leicester

“Professor Evan’s book could hardly be more timely, important or appropriate. It is timely because of the renewed public interest in governance of universities and the imminent conclusions of the review being conducted by Richard Lambert on behalf of the Government of links between higher education and business. It is important because of the crucial role of the universities in the modern knowledge-based economy and the need for them to be able to discharge this role by playing to their traditional strengths. It is appropriate because Professor Evans has both a track record of thoughtful and scholarly books about the contemporary role of the academy and virtually unrivalled knowledge and understanding of the structure and modes of her university….this is an important book.” – Roger Brown, Principal, Southampton Institute of Higher Education and Former Chief Executive of the Higher Education Quality Council

Table of Contents

1. ‘Communities of scholars’
2. Freedom and controls
3. A new Mission Statement
4. How to run a university: the old way
5. How to run a more businesslike university
6. The great CAPSize
7. Estate Management and Empire Building
8. How to run a university: the modern way
9. The failure of the internal controls
10. The habit of maladministration
11. Students with problems
12. You would like a job at Cambridge?
13. The statutory regulators fail to regulate
14. Conclusion

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