Category Archives: Sussex Uni

Of fast food and physics departments

Debate is raging at Sussex University over the possible closure of one of the on-campus food stores.  The cause of greatest ire seems to be the decision to replace it with a cafe. 

As far as I have ever been able to discover there is only one other ‘supermarket’ on campus and that is pretty poorly stocked most of the time.  And there do seem to be a lot of cafes and fast food outlets.  And I realise that the University authorities are monopoly suppliers of space on campus (presumably) and that they might be equipped more with the skills of colonial administrators than thrusting entrepreneurs…

BUT, might it not be the case that simple market forces are at work here?  Presumably if the cafes werent popular they would be empty and the university would close them.  Or if the consumers (mostly students) preferred to buy dried lentils rather than ready cooked chips, there would be sufficient demand to prompt the university to open a whole-food store. 

I dont know much about university funding structures but it seems logical to suggest that the alternative is cross-subsidy which results in less money for things like, well, education.  There seem to be parrallels here with propping up departments that dont attract enough students…

 Of course, another solution might be for the Arts faculty to knock down the interior walls in their buildings, make their offices open-plan and then open up their own whole-food co-op in the extra space that would have been created!  🙂

 On the other hand I have never quite figured out how Birmingham managed to run a travel agents and a hair-dressers on campus when Sussex seems barely able to keep a corner shop open.  And as for a second hand book-shop, well that’s just sooo 1980s.

From Salford to the Balkans

A weekend conference at Salford University on the EUs expansion into South Eastern Europe – the sort of event that Tabman would doubtless have us all attend as a form of intellectual National Service 😉

A whole range of interesting speakers, papers and opinions.  Some of the points that particularly caught my eye and which I want to know more about:

  • What does the accession of Romania and Bulgaria mean for the next wave of expansion – in particular Turkey but also the former Yugoslav states.  There was some talk about the double standards applied by the EU in its condition-setting for the former Communist states but it seems to me that the EU has consistently applied a single standard in its approach to expansion – an internally negotiated agreement on the what is in the best interests of existing members.  This might not be terribly satisfactory to those of a ‘militant constitutionalist’ bent but it would appear to be a sensible ‘realpolitik’ approach – the only way to ensure the continued buy-in of voters in existing member states.

  

  • What is the real impact of the EU’s regional development policy.  A whole industry seems to have grown up around marshalling development fund resources in a way that is not entirely healthy either for democracy or the wider economy both in terms of the way politicians operate in trying to capture control of the distribution of funds and the way in which new bureaucracies have grown up to support artificially created EU regions.  This is not a phenomenon limited to Central and Eastern Europe.  It also raises concerns about the impact of structural funds on the natural environment in some states (see earlier link to Guardian article on road building in the Retezat National Park for example.)
  • One fascinating bit of research challenged some assumptions about the Europe-wide trend towards falling party membership.  Apparently in Romania now around 15% of the population belongs to a political party.  Another assumption that this research might challenge is the notion that mass party membership is automatically a good thing for democracy since this growth in membership might be the result of single donors bulk-buying memberships to obtain control of local party organisations.  Least said about that the better, perhaps…

 

  • And finally, an intriguing snippet of polling data – that support for EU membership has shot up to 70% among Polish farmers (previously among the most Euro-sceptic groups in the region!)  Could that be something to do with gaining access to CAP payment?  Maybe I won’t go there either…