Some thoughts on this late at night:
1. The Referencing System:
Arguably the most pernicious aspect of modern universities is the referencing system. A system that was not used in any of the major humanities books that are still widely read in university departments worldwide.
The fault in the system is two fold. On the one hand, it stops people from coming up with new and innovative ideas, because they have to read through hundreds of old ideas before proposing any of their own.
On the other hand, it creates an ‘old boys club,’ where the same few professors reference each other in each other’s work, artificially boosting their rankings in the (also redundant) university ranking system.
2. University Rankings:
Numerical rankings have a tendency of ruining everything we love, be it movies, hotels or universities. When a system is ranked against competitors, this encourages a movement towards conservatism (for fear of losing a ranking), and a movement towards point-scoring (a cheap way of gaining a rank).
The worst aspect of university rankings specifically, is that they tend to prioritise research over the needs of students. A university gains a better rank due to gaining many references (itself a very dubious way of calculating the worth of a document – words effect the world by effecting the world, not by appearing in another document’s footnotes).
A more balanced system would place a 50% weighting on teaching and a 50% weighting on research – with research calculated by the impact it has in the field or on society, rather than on a reference counter.
3. Academic Journal Pay-Walls:
If research is meant to be disseminated as widely as possible for the benefit of mankind, then academic pay walls are in a sense, evil. Not only do academic journals not pay their writers (which would justify the pay wall), but they block the public from receiving any information from the universities. This creates a hard line between any academic and the public, when no such line should exist.
Finally, in the age of the internet, any pay wall on knowledge makes absolutely no sense logistically. What ‘transport’ are we paying for?
4. Inequality of Naming Rights:
Researchers today (none directly related to my work) are rumoured to be in the business of stealing the credit of their PhD students. In a sense, this is a form of plagiarism. When their PhD student writes a paper, the head researcher puts their name on it, even if they have done nothing to help write it.
5. The Number of Academics
The sheer number of academics has made most research (particularly in the humanities) largely redundant. Researchers write about the same topics, again and again and again, from different universities. Very little effort is made to stop duplication, nor is there much point, because it would be literally impossible to read all of the information, even if duplication were completely avoided.