In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘How British degrees lost their value’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 22 August

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The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Harry Lambert in the New Statesman

on higher education

The great university con: how the British degree lost its value

“Over the past 30 years, successive governments, from Thatcher to Blair, to Cameron and May, have imposed a set of perverse incentives on universities. Their effect has been to degrade and devalue the quality of British degrees. Academic standards have collapsed. In many institutions, it is the students who now educate the universities, in what grades they will tolerate and how much work they are willing to do.”

2. Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times

on owning the narrative

Who benefits politically from the next US recession?

“The belief that Mr Trump cannot survive a recession before November 2020 is probably right. But the question here is not which person wins one election. It is which idea rules the decade post-recession. In times of scarcity, when groups vie over less and less, Trumpism can surge long after its eponym falters. Its challenge will be disavowing culpability. In 2016, the populist right comprised untainted outsiders. At the next recession, it will have been at least four years in government. Through the tariffs it has imposed, the Trump administration will have had a hand in the downturn. Populism is always in its element in opposition, spooking the elite into concessions without braving the reputational wear and tear of high office. The worst thing that ever befell it might turn out to be power.”

3. Owen Jones in The Guardian

on extremism’s double standard

Far-right violence is on the rise. Where is the outrage?

“The far right is emboldened, legitimised and ever more violent, and hate crimes are surging. When we discuss Islamist fundamentalist terrorists, we ask: who are the hate preachers radicalising them in mosques or the internet? We have yet to engage seriously in a similar debate about far-right terrorism for a simple reason: the hate preachers are mainstream politicians, commentators and media outlets.”

4. Konstantin Kisin in The Daily Telegraph

on being offended

Our culture of victimhood, political correctness and infinite narcissism is destroying comedy

“Where in the past being offended by a comedian might have simply meant choosing not to see him or her again, somehow we have convinced ourselves that our opinions matter. Audience members will routinely demand that a comedy club stops booking certain comedians – not because they failed to make the audience laugh but because someone felt like being offended. If 299 people enjoyed the show and one person did not, that individual feels entitled to complain, disrupt the performance or even shame others into walking out with them. Why? Because the currency of modern society is victimhood. The more upset, offended and 'triggered' you are, the more attention you can obtain online from the baying Twitter mob. Being aggrieved now gives you power, which can be directed against your enemies.”

5. David Aaronovitch in The Times

on cultural vandalism

Self-righteous activists will destroy museums

“As the model train enthusiasts of Market Deeping discovered in May, things built painstakingly over time can be destroyed in minutes by the careless and the vandalistic. Note how those who say ‘don’t take money from X and Y!’ never have any useful suggestions about how to replace it. How those who demand ‘give it back’ never really understand what they’re taking it away from — how they could lose Amenhotep’s gigantic inscrutable face and wouldn’t really care.”

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