Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Excellence in stupidity  


Ana Isabel Afonso (FCSH-Universidade Nova de Lisboa Researcher CRIA-NOVA)
Manuel Ramos (ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon)
Carlos Mendes (ESTG-Instituto Polit├ęcnico de Viana do Castelo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the way Portuguese social sciences' faculties and research centres have been living the present pan-European university reform. We take the implementation of the "Bologna Accords" in Portugal as an illustration of the ways erratic and unsupported reasoning affect decision-making.

Paper long abstract:

Italian historian Carlo Cipolla noticed that stupidity is as prevalent in the university as in any other social institution. Thus, anthropologists dealing with the university "reform" should not underestimate that inconsistent practices and discourses disturb widespread assumptions that institutions are nurtured by Reason.

"Bologna" advocates argue that it represents a unique opportunity to bring "excellence" to Portuguese universities. At the same time, the compression of degrees has been presented as a chance for students with inadequate skills to get higher qualifications, an argument university managers and key opinion-makers reiterate. For the authorities, as "science" and "technology" are central to the rhetoric of "modernisation" and "Europeanization" of the country, the stress on performance measurements and comparative rankings as essential tools of the universal desire to reform the University creates new ground for political appropriation of academic work. University isn't expected to produce meaning but to be a rationally managed enterprise.

This raises troubling questions about the changing concept of the University. Given that most scholars in Portugal failed to address them, instead adopting a submissive attitude towards the undergoing changes, could it be that a plot to enhance "competence", "quality", and "excellence" in higher education is hastening the end of the University as a place where (moderately) creative thought is encouraged? If yes, aren't we dealing with a state of affairs requiring an approach to social institutions in which illogicality is taken into account not as a mere derivative of overpowering Reason but as a central feature of human collective existence?

Panel W034
Anthropologies of university reform: restructuring of higher education - anthropological perspectives