Audio Long Reads, from the New Statesman
The long and stupid decline of the British university
Once the envy of the world, British universities are being hollowed out by a managerial class, argues Adrian Pabst, a New Statesman contributing writer and professor of politics at the University of Kent. Instead of intellectual excellence and civic responsibility, the emphasis is increasingly on “churning out graduates who will serve the interests of City firms and the non-governmental organisation industry”.
Where did the rot set in, and can it be cured? Pabst traces the university’s decline from the advent of the student loan and a 1990s proliferation of “Mickey Mouse” degrees, via New Labour and the Cameron-Clegg coalition’s embrace of marketisation and bureaucracy. As degrees have become more expensive, the work that goes into them has become more mediocre – with tutors and students assessed against arbitrary metrics. The universities' "corporate capture... is a profound cultural loss," he writes.
In this excoriating essay, originally published as the New Statesman’s 10 March 2023 cover story, Pabst diagnoses the causes, examines the costs – and proposes solutions to the current crisis. You can read the text version here.
Written by Adrian Pabst and read by Emma Haslett.
If you enjoyed this episode, you might also like The great housing con: why the coming crash will rewrite the UK economy.
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How the rich got richer: welcome to the age of ‘greedflation’26:57In a bid to curb inflation, the Bank of England has raised interest rates 12 consecutive times – but the cost of goods continues to rise. The poorer have been hit hardest, as the price of household staples such as bread and milk rockets. Meanwhile some of the world’s biggest corporations have been “rebuilding their margins”: Starbucks increased its operating margin to 19.1 per cent last quarter (with takeaway coffee up 11 per cent); McDonalds, Tesco and other supermarket chains are also making higher profits on higher pricesWhat is driving today’s current cycle of greedflation? Usually ,when a company’s costs rise, its profit margins fall. In this week’s long read, the New Statesman’s business editor Will Dunn examines the economic forces at play, explores proposed solutions, and explains how ‘greedflation’ worsens inequality. Written and read by Will Dunn. This article originally appeared in the 2-8 June edition of the New Statesman. You can read the text version here. If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy listening to The great housing con by Will Dunn.
Inside the Conservative party’s radical right30:16May 2023 saw two significant gatherings of the Tory right: the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) in Bournemouth, and the National Conservative Conference in London. The latter was organised by the US-based think tank the Edmund Burke Foundation, and drew heavily on its ideas about family, faith and the failures of globalism and liberal individualism. The former was emphatically not a ‘Bring Back Boris’ convention (the ex-prime minister did not attend), though it numbered several of his political cheerleaders and delegates nostalgic for the boosterism of the Johnson years. In this week’s long read, the New Statesman’s commissioning editor and writer Will Lloyd attends both conferences, and explores the origins of their discontent. Is he witnessing “the final crack-up of British conservatism, or the birth of a new, harder-edged ideological programme that will dominate the party for years to come”? Will American populism shape the next generation of Tories? Through conversations with ministers, delegates, journalists and assorted hangers-on, Lloyd pieces together a darkly entertaining portrait of the Conservative right. Written and read by Will Lloyd. This article originally appeared in the 26 May-2 June edition of the New Statesman. You can read the text version here. If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy listening to The strange death of moderate conservatism by Jeremy Cliffe.
‘It’s a state of terror’: inside Haiti’s descent into chaos26:27In May 2023, the UN reported that 600 people had been killed in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince in the previous month alone – victims of gang violence and the near total collapse of law and order. In April the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, warned that insecurity in the country had “reached levels comparable to countries in armed conflict” and called for the deployment of an international force. In this powerful reported piece, freelance writer and former Haiti resident Pooja Bhatia talks to contacts on the ground, as well as historians and US State Department officials. She traces the origins of the current crisis through successive governments – from Papa and Baby Doc to Jovenel Moise - and through waves of US intervention. Between 2004 and 2017, UN peacekeeping forces brought cholera and 10,000 deaths to the country. Today cholera is back, with 40,000 suspected cases since October 2022. Against a backdrop of escalating violence and political corruption, many Haitians have come to see escape to the US (under Joe Biden’s “humanitarian parole programme”) or foreign intervention as the only way forward. But will any nation step up?This article was originally published in the 12-18 May issue of the New Statesman magazine. You can read the text version here. Written by Pooja Bhatia and read by the New Statesman’s global affairs editor Katie Stallard. If you liked listening to this episode, you might also enjoy A journey through Ukraine at war.
Why Liverpool bet big on Eurovision17:16Liverpool has a rich musical history, from the Beatles to Echo and the Bunnymen, and beat six other British cities to become the 2023 host of Eurovision. Can the annual jamboree of geopolitics and high camp help the city overcome recent scandals? In this entertaining long read, the New Statesman’s culture writer Kate Mossman visits the city and meets contestants from Moldova, Beatles tour guides and Brian Nash of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, who believes that successive councils have “done more damage to this town than the Luftwaffe”. Where does Liverpool’s “casual musicality” come from? Will Sonia perform at the opening ceremony? All is revealed as the city prepares for the party it hopes will revive its cultural fortunes. This article was originally published in the 12-18 May 2023 issue of the New Statesman. You can read the text version here. Written by Kate Mossman and read by Anna Leszkiewicz. If you enjoyed this episode, you might also enjoy listening to I was Joni Mitchell’s “Carey”.
Inside the mind of King Charles III39:57Since 1993, the king has been visiting a village in deepest Romania – once a year, alone. He owns two houses there, and is revered by the locals, for whom he has installed a sewage system and worked to protect their traditional way of life. What draws him there? In this fascinating and deeply reported long read, New Statesman commissioning editor Will Lloyd traces the roots of the king’s obsession – from his often lonely childhood, through an unhappy marriage and a forceful rejection of modernity. Is there a darker side to his enthusiasm for green policy initiatives – a more troubling engagement with the past? The answer lies in Transylvania. Written and read by Will Lloyd. This article was originally published in the New Statesman 5-11 May 2023 issue. You can read the text version here. If you enjoyed this episode, you might also like listening to What is left of Princess Diana? or The making of Prince William.
The slow, sad death of the print newspaper26:42The freelance journalist Tim de Lisle is a lifelong newspaper addict, and still buys two papers a day, three at weekends. In this elegy to their demise, he tracks his own love affair with them, from a schoolboy in search of the football results, to sports reporter, music critic and media studies lecturer. Is the future of news entirely digital, or could some form of print survive – as vinyl and cinema have survived streaming? In this rich, personal piece, De Lisle talks to industry-watchers and travels to Scotland to meet two of the UK’s most successful local newspaper editors. With print, one feels “released from the clammy embrace of the algorithm”, he writes. “You get past the cacophony of politics to read about real life, from families to food. It’s better for your mental health, your general knowledge, your membership of the human race.” But can anyone afford to fund it – and is its audience a dying breed? The singer Katy Perry, for one, hopes not. She recently tweeted: “One of my favorite [sic] sounds ever is the sound of a crisp new newspaper being read over breakfast for an hour or so… The popping out of it, the folding, the scribbling on the crossword… I hope it never goes out of fashion in our digital world. It is too romantic.”Written by Tim de Lisle and read by Rachel Cunliffe.This article was originally published on the Newstatesman.com on 15 April 2023, and in the 21-27 April print edition. You can read the text version here. If you enjoyed this episode, you may also enjoy listening to the battle for the soul of English cricket.Subscribers can get an ad free version of the NS Podcast on the New Statesman appPodcast listeners can subscribe to the New Statesman for just £1 a week for 12 weeks using our special offer. Just visit newstatesman.com/podcastoffer.
Xi, Putin and the new world order25:53In the postwar world, Stalin and the Soviet Union wielded greater power over Mao Zedong's new communist China. Today, following China’s rise as an economic superpower and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, it is Beijing that has the upper hand – and on whom Russia’s future depends. When Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow for a three-day visit in March 2023, he was greeted with elaborate ceremony and deference. With Russia cut off from the West, China now supplies 40 per cent of its imports, a proportion that will only grow. The leaders are united, too, in their fight against the US for global dominance – but there are tensions and limits within that alliance.In this magazine cover story, the New Statesman’s global affairs editor Katie Stallard looks at the parallels with the Sino-Soviet alliance of the 1950s, and the two countries’ shared and sometimes violent history, from the first official Russian expedition to Beijing in 1618 to today’s alignment. She hears from others on why their explicitly anti-US world-view has an appeal in the Global South, particularly in Africa. Will the relationship survive China’s growing economic and diplomatic supremacy? And how dangerous is it for the rest of the world? Written and read by Katie Stallard. This article was originally published on newstatesman.com on 19 April 2023. You can read the text version here. If you enjoyed this episode, you may also enjoy The strange death of moderate conservatism.Subscribers can get an ad free version of the NS Podcast on the New Statesman appPodcast listeners can subscribe to the New Statesman for just £1 a week for 12 weeks using our special offer. Just visit newstatesman.com/podcastoffer.
Confessions of a philosopher: Bryan Magee’s final interview22:21As a philosophy student in the 1980s, the New Statesman’s editor-in-chief Jason Cowley learned more from Bryan Magee than from any seminar or lecture. Magee’s 1987 BBC television series The Great Philosophers, described by one critic as “two boffins on a sofa”, examined some of life’s most recondite questions in an accessible way. Magee was also a prolific author (of philosophy, poetry and fiction), a Labour and then an SDP politician. But when Cowley later met Magee, sent to interview him by the Times in 1997, he was struck by something the philosopher said as he left: “I get the impression that you feel I am lonely and unfulfilled.” Was he? Eleven years later, now editor of the New Statesman, Cowley visited Magee in a nursing hospital in Oxford, shortly after publication of the 87-year-old’s book Ultimate Questions. The issues that had made Magee restless in his sixties still loomed large: “What the hell is it all about?” he asked, and compared himself unfavourably to Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper, men he had known (“they were a whole class above me in intelligence”). In this rich and beautifully observed profile, Cowley explores these themes, as well as the formative years of one of Britain’s most interesting thinkers. Written and read by Jason Cowley. This article originally appeared in the 08 April 2018 issue of the New Statesman. You can read the text version here.Subscribers can get an ad free version of the NS Podcast on the New Statesman appIf you enjoyed listening to this, you might enjoy Grayson Perry on the rise and fall of the Default Man
Inside the migrant revival of British Christianity19:51According to the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the face of British Christianity is changing rapidly. London is now home to the greatest concentration of African churches outside Africa – many of them in bingo halls and warehouses, schools and community centres, where they also serve as social and charitable hubs. Outside the capital, the prospects of a religious revival are relatively bleak: weekly Church of England attendance is below 2 per cent of England’s population, and 20 Anglican churches are closed for worship every year. Is secularisation “almost entirely a white British phenomenon”, as the Birkbeck political scientist Eric Kaufmann puts it?In this week’s long read Tomiwa Owolade, a New Statesman contributing writer, explores this divide and looks at the migrant roots of London’s Christian revival. He finds that, largely because of its religious population, the capital has become the most socially conservative city in the country, with a higher percentage of Londoners disapproving of sex outside marriage and homosexuality.“This is awkward for conservative thinkers,” Owolade writes, “who complain about the decline of Christianity, and about large-scale immigration to Britain. Without immigration, the decline of Christianity would be even more profound. But it is also tricky for progressives: many of these immigrant communities espouse values on gender and sexuality that are far from liberal.”Will the African Christian revival be dampened by a wider secular culture – or will it expand?Written and read by Tomiwa Owolade.This article originally appeared in the 31 March-13 April New Statesman spring special. You can read the text version here.If you enjoyed this episode, you might like the battle for the soul of English cricket