When the University of Sheffield awarded the then poet laureate John Masefield an honorary degree in 1946, he gave an address about the power of education. He thought universities were beautiful places and his ideas and eloquent words remain prescient today. Lord Dearing quoted them in the forward to his seminal report in 1997 which was guided by a similar romantic vision for higher education. This is an extract from the poem in his address:
“There are few earthly things more beautiful. … It is a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see; where seekers and learners alike, banded together in the search for knowledge, will honor thought in all its finer ways, will welcome thinkers in distress or in exile, will uphold ever the dignity of thought and learning, and will exact standards in these things.
Religions may split into sect or heresy; dynasties may perish or be supplanted, but for century after century the University will continue, and the stream of life will pass through it, and the thinker and the seeker will be bound together in the undying cause of bringing thought into the world. . . .”
I don’t get the impression that Lord Browne was as well versed in Masefield as Dearing was when writing his report. More’s the pity.