Peter Smith

Publications, Lectures and Other Stuff

Does the Modern University System Stifle Original Thought? The Peter Higgs Example

This is an excellent article about the views of the theoretical physicist Peter Higgs concerning the British higher education system.

Higgs was the original theorizer of the elementary particle the Higgs boson, which was first postulated in 1964 and finally confirmed by CERN in 2012 (48 years later). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2013. According to this article Higgs thinks that such a major theoretical breakthrough would be difficult to make in the modern university system with its emphasis on the rapid production of measurable research output in the form of streams of articles rather than the nurturing of profound thinking. Higgs’s own academic output is apparently meagre and he opines that he would not be able to get a university job in the modern market as he is insufficiently productive by the kinds of evaluative measurements that are now made. This is ironic in that his work has stimulated the production of many thousands of papers by others.

I should add that these observations dovetail with an increasing body of thinking that is severely critical of the whole neo-liberal view of higher education that values the immediate positive economic benefit of academic work rather than its potential for long-term creativity.

This is the article (many of the comments are also worth reading):

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/dec/06/peter-higgs-boson-academic-system

This is a long interview with him:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/dec/06/peter-higgs-interview-underlying-incompetence

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This entry was posted on December 8, 2013 by in Universities and tagged , .
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