Aug 9 2016

An LSE Education

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MSc students celebrate their graduation from the London School of Economics on the steps of Old Building. 17th December 2013

LSE has ambitious plans for its education.

The LSE Education Strategy 2015-2020, sets the path for the School to lead in the provision of research-informed social science education. An LSE education is designed for students who are keen to engage critically with their discipline and real world challenges, and who want to equip themselves, professionally and personally, for the world into which they will graduate.

In order to achieve all that we have set out to do, LSE is investing £11million in education over the next three years. To ensure that this investment is directed to the key areas of priority, the focus so far has been on developing specific plans for activity. From September 2016, we will have a full complement of activity which is focused on supporting our students to realise their educational and professional ambitions.

Student Support


We are thrilled to be launching LSE LIFE this September. LSE LIFE is a new academic, personal and professional development centre for LSE’s taught students. It will support students as they transition into life at one of the world’s leading universities; and provide them with ongoing opportunities to develop academic, communication and research skills, learn languages, get advice on personal effectiveness and in making life choices, and gain insights into graduate recruitment and career paths. Read more about the centre here

Inspiring Teaching

We have just welcomed the first members of the LSE Education Career Track. The Education Career Track supports LSE teaching staff and provides the opportunities for the development of specialist educators who wish to build their careers through teaching and educational leadership.

This doesn’t mean to say that we don’t already have outstanding teaching. At the end of the last academic year, over 1,300 student nominations were received to celebrate LSE’s inspiring teachers. Hear students’ nominations in their own words:

A new Pro-Director Vision Fund is also being launched this year to support the development of innovative LSE programmes. The programmes will encourage academic learning and the acquisition of disciplinary and inter-disciplinary knowledge amongst LSE’s students.

A Dynamic Learning Community

In 2015/16, LSE introduced a new timetable which allowed for more time for beyond-the-classroom teaching and embedding research into taught programmes to offer new experiences for students; including assessing class participation and group activities, field trips within London, experiential research projects and Lent Term exams.

One great LSE tradition, which has just celebrated its sixth successful year, is ‘LSE GROUPS’. For two weeks in Summer Term, LSE’s undergraduates have an opportunity to conduct original research. In small groups students devise a research question, carry out a literature review, collect and analyse data, and write and present a research paper. This year’s students researched aspects of poverty and inequality in London. See the students in action.

LSE’s education goes beyond the course structure and students find many opportunities to pursue their passions, with student-led initiatives such as the Hult Prize which this year saw three LSE students reach the regional finals in Dubai where they received an Honorary Commendation for their Boocycle idea. LSE has also developed its own approaches to support student ingenuity and entrepreneurship with initiatives such as LSE Generate, and the Undergraduate Political Review (LSEUPR). The LSEUPR is one of the first undergraduate-run journals in the UK offering students the opportunity to see their research published in a peer reviewed, academic journal, and to involve themselves directly in a broad spectrum of contemporary political debates.

Fifi Kara, LSE 2016 Graduate and entrepreneur

One student who made the most of all that LSE has to offer is Fifi Kara who graduated this year with a new business already in development and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship.

Professor Paul Kelly, LSE Pro-Director Education




Watch Paul Kelly discussing LSE’s Education developments:

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Jun 25 2016

“Our students and teachers from near and far are a big part of what makes learning at LSE so special” – LSE Director Craig Calhoun

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A message from LSE Director Craig Calhoun

Since Friday’s momentous news, I have received many messages from staff, students and alumni concerned about the implications of the UK’s decision, both for the School and for the community and mission it represents. I know that our Chair, Alan Elias, and the incoming Interim Director Julia Black have also heard from many of you. All of us in LSE’s leadership are listening to your concerns and focused on addressing the issues before the School and the LSE Community.

Firstly I want to restate, unequivocally, our continued commitment to LSE’s European partnerships, our engagement in research and policy analysis bearing on Europe, our teaching on Europe. This commitment is shared with my colleagues in the interim Senior Leadership Team that will take over in September (and which is already meeting in preparation).

I also want to convey LSE’s pledge to provide every possible assistance and support to our non-UK students and staff members. Many are understandably anxious, but should know that the LSE values them. All of us in leadership are committed to maintaining the diversity of national origins among our staff and students. We also appreciate the crucial contributions made by non-UK staff. They are integral members our community and our commitment to them will remain unchanged regardless of the UK’s status within the European Union.

It is heartwarming to read the stories posted to Facebook and other social media by LSE alumni who want to offer testimony as to how fortunate they feel at having been taught by LSE academics from all countries of the European Union. These alumni remember also how central a part of LSE education their fellow students were, and how crucial it was and is that students come to LSE from throughout the EU as well as the whole world. Our students and teachers from near and far and across the EU are a big part of what makes learning at LSE so special.

Please do keep sharing your stories and memories on Facebook. Please keep mentioning your different departments and degree programmes; it is heartening to know that the whole School is unified in appreciating its diversity. This is integral to the LSE and indeed to London. I am enormously proud of the whole LSE community and I know that all of us – students, academics, alumni, and professional services staff – hugely value the contribution to LSE made by our staff and students from all countries of the EU and around the world.

LSE will remain one of the world’s foremost sources of knowledge about Europe. And we will continue to celebrate our standing as an international university with reach throughout Europe and the whole world.

Craig Calhoun, LSE Director

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Jun 24 2016

Statement on the EU Referendum Result from LSE Director Craig Calhoun and Interim LSE Director Julia Black

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Professor Craig Calhoun, the new Director at the London School of Economics.

Dear colleagues,

As you will be very well aware, in yesterday’s referendum the UK voted to leave the European Union. While the School maintained a position of institutional neutrality throughout the referendum campaign, this is not the result that the HE sector at large, nor many of us here at LSE, wanted to see.

I am sure, regardless of your personal position on the UK’s place within the EU, this outcome has left you with many questions.

First, I want to provide you with a firm commitment that the Senior Leadership Team will be considering the implications of the decision for the School over the comings, days, weeks and months as the details become known, and that those implications will be made know to you.

Second, I want to reassure you that we expect short term change to be minimal. We have already taken the decision to maintain the current level of fees for EU students who are registered at the School in 2016/17, either as a new or continuing students. And LSE will continue to charge the home rate for tuition fees for all subsequent years of their programme.

No decision has yet been made for EU students starting at LSE in 2017/18.

We will be working with you all, as well as our partners and external advisors to understand and manage the effects that leaving the EU will have. We remain committed to delivering the School’s mission and objectives as set out in the LSE Strategy 2020 and will endeavour to manage any disruption. LSE will remain one of the world’s foremost sources of knowledge about Europe, just as it will remain a national and a global leader in social science and public knowledge.

A further update will be provided as soon as next steps for the sector are clearer and we know more.


Craig Calhoun                                       Julia Black

LSE Director                                          Interim Director (from 1 September 2016)

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Feb 15 2016

LSE’s major investment in education explained

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Following last week’s announcement of an £11m investment in education and student experience at LSE over the next three years, Pro-Director for Teaching and Learning Professor Paul Kelly fills us in on the detail.


First of all, what is the context for the investment in education?

Several factors combine to make investment in education a priority at LSE. First, we want the reputation and performance of LSE’s teaching to be as highly regarded as LSE’s research. Second, we want to enhance LSE’s educational offer so that our students are prepared for and can contribute to the complex and challenging world into which they will graduate. And, third, we want to refresh the tradition of LSE as a dynamic learning community, where students, staff, alumni and others interact in ways that reflect the School’s distinctive identity. In order for these ambitions to be achieved, we have produced LSE’s first ever Education Strategy and are investing over £11m across the next three years to implement and deliver it.

How will the £11m be spent?

Broadly, we’re investing £2m on teaching excellence, to support the funding of educational projects, awards for exceptional teaching and developmental collaborations across the School; £4m on new posts in academic departments for the development and delivery of new and redesigned courses and programmes; and £5m on a new academic, personal and professional development centre for taught students called LSE LIFE.

So that’s £6m in total on teaching-related academic posts and developing teaching excellence. What can staff and students look forward to?

It is a big investment, designed to signal loudly and clearly that teaching and teachers are as important to LSE as research and researchers. Not all academics can, or should, devote equal time to both activities and the balance between the two will change throughout academics’ careers, so the investment in new posts (and promotions in existing posts) is a way of ensuring a ‘groundswell’ of targeted, dedicated and sustained teaching expertise within academic departments, so that flexibility between research and teaching can continue to be offered where desirable. What students will notice when those posts are in place is a range of high quality and challenging courses and programmes on offer, taught by inspiring and expert teachers.

The investment in developing teaching excellence will support several new initiatives: a Pro-Director Vision Fund that provides £100,000 in each of the next three academic sessions for developmental projects that deliver enhancements and innovations in teaching and learning; Excellence in Education Awards (totalling £1m over the next two years) to reward the highest quality contributions, by individuals and groups within and across departments, to students’ educational experiences; and significant investment in development opportunities for academic staff at all levels, as well as departmental-professional service collaborations that expand opportunities for both staff and students. Together, these are designed also to indicate the importance we attach to education, by developing, recognising and rewarding talent and contribution. But they are also aimed at serving the LSE community as a whole by getting staff, students, alumni and visitors involved in the evolution of education at LSE and enabling them to benefit from it.

LSE LIFE sounds interesting. Can you tell us more about that?

Yes. LSE LIFE will integrate for the first time the many academic, professional and personal development opportunities offered by different LSE departments and services – and add many new such opportunities – in one new specially designed centre on the ground floor of the LSE Library, opening this September. So students will be able to come to LSE LIFE to develop academic, communication, numeracy and research skills, learn languages, get advice on personal effectiveness and in making life choices, and gain insights into graduate recruitment and career paths, as well as to participate in intensive activities such as interdisciplinary research projects and experiential learning programmes with external organisations.

It’s a little like the PhD Academy but for taught students, the idea being that such a comprehensive and coherent programme of activities will not only complement students’ learning on degree programmes, but also help equip them for life beyond LSE as responsible and engaged citizens.


This interview was first published on the LSE Teaching Blog.

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Dec 17 2015

Announcement from Craig Calhoun

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On 17 December 2015, LSE Director Craig Calhoun announced to the School that he would not seek a second term as LSE Director. This email was sent to all staff setting out the priorities for the remainder of his term.



I write to let you know that I will not seek a second term as LSE Director. There are many things that sadden me about this decision, but perhaps most of all the lost pleasure of working with so many great colleagues.

I remain enthusiastic about the LSE and its potential. Serving the School remains one of the most important things I have done. And I will continue to serve to the best of my ability in the remainder of my term.

Some key objectives will be the focus of my attention. I will write more about these later, but at the top of the list is securing a step-change in LSE’s provision of education and student experience – including support directly for students and for all the teachers who contribute so basically. It is important that the School seek to be as outstanding in education as it is in research.

With other members of the Director’s Management Team (DMT), Academic Planning and Resources Committee (APRC) and Department Heads, I will continue work to strengthen overall academic quality at the LSE. This will include sustaining and advancing our research and making sure that we have a strong supporting structure on both departmental and interdepartmental bases. During the next two months, Julia Black (Pro Director for Research) will lead a consultation on how we may best focus and support LSE excellence and recognition in global public policy. Sustaining the strength of LSE public engagement is also important. And the pursuit of quality will crucially mean following through on the review processes to ensure our teaching and research are strong across the board.

Quality of service provision is also crucial, from Estates to IMT to HR and Communications. In January we will welcome a new Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Young. He will take on this job of providing better, more effective, and more cost-effective services and I will do all I can to support him and this effort.

Of course, the work of DMT and the Directorate will continue; each leadership group has full agendas including crucial matters like bringing forward the report of the Task Force on Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion and overseeing the School’s budget. And I will continue to the best of my ability to represent the School externally.

Thanks to all of you for your many contributions in support of the School. I look forward to continuing to work with you.

All best wishes, including for very happy holidays,



Message from the Chair of LSE Court and Council

17 December 2015

I want to express appreciation for Craig’s leadership and service.  I offer my sincere thanks to him, both for his clear vision for the future direction of LSE and for his strenuous work towards converting that vision into reality. There will of course be future times for more detailed expressions of appreciation.

I also want to indicate my clear support – and that of Council – for the analysis of risks before the School, the vision of how LSE can flourish, and the strategy to guide action that lie behind our Strategic Plan. Council is committed to high ambitions for the School and vigorous action in pursuit of those ambitions.

Lord Paul Myners


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Nov 25 2015

Speech by Professor Craig Calhoun: Knowledge as a Public Good – the role of universities

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LSE Director Professor Craig Calhoun gave a public speech this year (2 April 2015) entitled ‘Knowledge as a Public Good: the role of universities’. The lecture, given to an audience at Hitotsubashi University, Japan, touched on the challenges facing universities today and highlighted the importance of both using knowledge for the public good and being public for the good of knowledge. 

“We are in the midst of an era of considerable upheaval in higher education and research, involving challenges to established ways of working that hold both threats and opportunities” Professor Calhoun said. “What is clear is that universities are unlikely to thrive simply by maintaining business as usual… Our task is to be creative in adapting to new circumstances. But in adapting, we should not lose our commitment to making knowledge a public good.”

Following publication of the UK government’s Higher Education Green Paper this month, and in light of wider discussions on the future of higher education, we share his speech in full here:


Craig Calhoun
London School of Economics and Political Science

“It is a great pleasure to visit Hitotsubashi University and an honour to be invited to speak on this wonderful occasion.

Hitotsubashi and the LSE share a great deal. LSE unfortunately lacks the beautiful cherry blossoms that mark spring in Tokyo. But it too is part of one of the world’s great cities. It too specializes in social science in order to prepare graduates for careers of leadership in business and industry, public affairs, and serving society. And it too is shaped by the fundamental belief that better knowledge is the basis for both individual leadership and addressing society’s most basic challenges.

Our universities offer students exceptional opportunities based on the education they receive. But we ask something of them as well. We ask that they use their knowledge not only selfishly but also to advance society. This was part of the founding mission for both Hitotsubashi and LSE. Our great universities have sought to advance knowledge because of its public importance and to share knowledge in pursuit of the public good. It is about this that I wish to speak.

We are in the midst of an era of considerable upheaval in higher education and research. This involves challenges to established ways of working that hold both threats and opportunities. What is clear is that universities are unlikely to thrive simply by maintaining business as usual. Of course, this is not the first period of institutional transformation. Both Hitotsubashi and the LSE were created in a late 19th century time of enormous change and played key roles in making this a time of public progress. To do this they had to innovate. Our task is to be as creative now in adapting to new circumstances. But in adapting, I will suggest, we should not lose our commitment to making knowledge a public good. Let me express this in three questions:

  1. Will universities continue to pursue knowledge for the public good – or will they pursue knowledge only for those who can pay?
  2. Will knowledge itself continue to be organised as a public good – one that can be shared widely without being diminished – or will property rights restrict sharing?
  3. Will public engagement continue to be basic to how knowledge advances – through publication, debate, error correction and the stimulation of new work – or will intellectual debate be stifled?

What sort of future we will have depends on how we respond to changes in how universities are funded, trends in information technology and media, globalisation, competition, and other changes. We need to renew ourselves even while we maintain the excellence to which we have long been committed.

Knowledge for the public good

The pursuit of knowledge has many motives. The sheer satisfaction of achieving better understanding ranks high. But for the modern university, the idea of making knowledge useful for the public good has always been strong.

Knowledge developed to cure diseases, strengthen financial markets, solve political problems, or deepen our understanding of culture and history can be of wide public benefit. Like natural and physical science, social science produces knowledge that is not just valuable but necessary. The basic institutions of modern societies literally can’t work without it. Banks and businesses of all kinds use social science knowledge on a daily basis (though often without realising it, or labelling it as such). Government ministries rely on social science knowledge whether they deal with trade and industry or diplomacy and foreign relations or the provision of health care and social security.

By far the biggest public contribution universities make is through the education of their students. Whether graduates become ‘captains of industry’ as the Hitotsubashi motto suggests or go into a range of different professions, knowledge will be basic to their success. Knowledge is of course much more than an accumulation of facts. This means the ability to think and analyse, to gather new information appropriate to a specific problem, to determine how reliable the sources are, and to communicate effectively. New information technologies make accessing data easier, but place a premium on all the other skills. This is why business leaders often stress the importance of educational breadth and the ability to see a problem from different perspectives. And it is why today’s graduates must continue to learn throughout their careers. First jobs create opportunities but less and less often offer guarantees. Career success depends on creative adaptation to changing conditions. So, it has become more important for universities to offer postgraduate education and executive education and more important than ever that basic courses develop students abilities to think critically and express their thoughts effectively. This requires real interaction with teachers.

Yet, at many institutions the race to achieve recognition for research has led to teaching being under-rewarded. At the same time, the organisation of research often privileges the achievement of disciplinary standing over contributions to the public good. Top universities today often seek to balance work inside disciplines with interdisciplinary research centres. After all, major public issues are seldom organised by academic disciplines. Climate change demands attention from economists as well as atmospheric scientists. Global financial vulnerability is a matter of politics and governance as well as technical finance. Urbanisation demands attention from a range of different social scientists as well as from architects and designers. Care for the aged is a matter of social institutions and design as well as medicine. And as these examples suggest, it is a mistake to conceive of the contributions of research entirely on the model of new technologies – though that has loomed large in the attention of funders.

Where research makes contributions to public understanding – to knowing the causes of things as the LSE motto has it – communication is vital. It is important for academics to communicate not only with other specialists but also with broader publics. New media help in this alongside more old-fashioned efforts to write well. But there is no substitute for building relationships. The contributions of academic knowledge are most valuable to policy makers, business leaders, and even social movements when they are developed in relationships, each side learning from the other.

Knowledge as a public good

The idea of knowledge as a public good refers to how knowledge is produced and shared. The point here is that for the most part knowledge is not lost if it is given away – like gold – or destroyed as it is used – like fuel that is burnt to provide heat or energy. Rather, in the famous phrase of the economist Paul Samuelson, the consumption of public goods is ‘non-rivalrous’. Clean air is an example. Investments in ending pollution necessarily benefit broad publics; it is hard to provide clean air on a purely private basis, one individual owner at a time (though of course rich people may live in less polluted parts of a city). Knowledge can be shared in this way, with no one worse off for sharing. But this is a choice. Knowledge can also be hoarded and restricted.

Pioneers of the Internet and open-source software used the slogan ‘information wants to be free’. This expressed an attractive ideal, but what we now see in reality is struggle over this freedom. More and more information is controlled as private property. Crucial data for research is restricted. This may pose a severe limit to the promises of searching and analysing big data as a new research methodology. At the same time, universities themselves and academic organisations often join in the proprietorial control of knowledge, seeking copyrights and patents – partly out of financial need.

The fact that knowledge can be produced and shared as a public good can be an advantage to making it effective in pursuing the public good. Better knowledge of markets or democracy can be more effective in securing public benefits when widely distributed. But, someone has to pay. Where benefits are distributed very widely, the question of who should pay takes on the form of a collective action problem. A large, dispersed public is unlikely to organise itself to pay – partly because each member cannot be sure others will pay and partly because each can hope to benefit without personally paying. Government has often been a solution to such collective action problems, requiring citizens and firms to pay taxes and using these to pay for public goods. And government has been a primary funder of knowledge-expanding research and knowledge-sharing higher education.

But government provision is in decline throughout the richer countries of the world. It is still growing in developing countries like China where participation rates are low and higher education is seen as important to the country’s modernisation. But government support for higher education and research must compete with spending on other levels of education, on health care, on care for aging populations, on infrastructure and other public purposes. Maintaining strong government support for both higher education and research depends in considerable part on demonstrating that it provides for the public good, and not merely private benefits.

Of course, knowledge can also be produced and shared on the basis of private payments. Students can be asked to pay larger share of the cost of their own education. Philanthropists can make gifts to defray the costs of education or research. Firms that benefit from knowledge can be asked to fund its creation.

Not surprisingly, the form of payment has an influence on the form of production and sharing. This is most obvious in cases where research is funded by business investments. This can be very valuable, but businesses are understandably likely to want the results of such research to be made available to them as private property. Universities try to negotiate terms that ensure the results of research benefit the public not only private funders. And we need to be wary of market failures: for example, purchase of research-based knowledge by businesses is likely to fund short-term not long-term projects, specific products not the underlying research programmes on which they are based, and to fund only the research private funders need or can use for competitive advantage – thus leaving unfunded work that could be of great public benefit.

Increasingly, students pay individually for their educations. Prices follow demand in a highly stratified market. Paradoxically, in recent decades the main factor determining what a university can charge has not been the quality of its teaching but the prestige of its research (though this may be changing with better sharing of information about teaching). This has made the higher education system look like the market for any high-end luxury good. In the markets for whiskey, sake, or wine there seem always to be older, more distinctive and more expensive brands. Among universities, there seem always to be institutions more selective, more famous, offering credentials that employers want even more. The rankings organise what economists have called ‘positional goods’ – goods whose value is based largely just on being higher in the ranking not on differences in use or taste or performance. Even the most selective universities compete for students because they want the best – those who will raise the standards of campus life and become the most distinguished alumni.

We see the results in the popularity of rankings. Many of these are based on dubious methodologies and too much emphasis falls on small differences – though of course all university presidents are quick to claim good rankings when they appear – as I am proud that LSE beat Oxford and Cambridge in the UK Research Excellence Framework and moved up to places to 22nd in the Times Higher Education Global Reputation Ranking. But rankings are also one sign of intensified and more global competition in higher education: competition for faculty, students, and funds.

Philanthropy has become an important supplement to what governments will pay and what universities must charge students. Philanthropists often give universities scholarship funds so that some students can study without being charged fees. This is very important for students in need. It is also important for universities, since they want to enrol the best students, not only the best with well-off parents. And it is important for the public because it makes education a source of opportunity and prepares the most talented students to make public contributions. Philanthropists also fund research and new kinds of academic work. Much funding for addressing major social issues comes from philanthropy. The growth of the whole field of behavioural economics was based importantly on philanthropic funding. Philanthropic gifts also play a role in determining which universities are at the top of the ranking hierarchies.

Philanthropy is, of course, also a reflection of growing economic inequality in society at large because without the accumulation of wealth there could not be big gifts. It is an effort to use private resources and private action for the public good. In countries where there are tax reductions to encourage philanthropic giving this is the key criterion: that the gift must be for the benefit of a wider public (not, for example, just for the giver’s own family). Moreover, philanthropists often create public goods in the second sense I mentioned – for example by subsidizing the creation of art and its display in museums that are open access. The beauty of the individual artwork is not diminished when it is seen by many. Neither is a new surgical technique less effective when used on the thousandth patient than it was on the first. Nor is a great work of history diminished by being read many times. Quite the contrary.

Seeking both to make knowledge a public good and to provide public benefit from knowledge raises the question: what is the public that benefits? Is it local, or national or global? Universities can be important at each level. It is a loss if no universities orient their programmes to their local communities. But increasingly the prestige and leadership are with global universities. National governments invest in global links; businesses seek graduates able to work globally. Global universities play a key role in preparing students for careers and leadership in a much more interdependent world.

Being public is good for knowledge

Knowledge flourishes in public because it is advanced through argument and debate, open publication and the replication of research results. These are public processes on which science itself depends. This is why, as the great sociologist Robert K. Merton stressed, the norms of science emphasise openness and sharing. Science places a particular emphasis on public communication. But this is important to other forms of knowledge as well. In a democracy, for example, open records of public meetings – of the legislature especially – are vital for citizens’ exercise of their rights. New technologies make many more such records readily available – and thus aid in research as well as citizenship. But the crucial point here is the idea that without free exchange errors are less likely to be corrected and knowledge less likely to advance.

The traditional way of ensuring critical debate has been to make scientific work openly available through print publication in tandem with libraries for wider access. New technology today could advance open access much further. This is blocked or slowed when academic journals are run on a for-profit basis. It is also inhibited by the prestige competition inside universities since this privileges publication in certain journals (often those with long histories and profit-seeking owners).

Even limited access to new knowledge is harder to arrange when scientific work is organised less for the advancement of knowledge than for the creation of market advantages. Research that goes into a new consumer product or an algorithm to manage trading is typically secret. Manifestly, such research has nonetheless produced advances in knowledge. This may tempt some to think that critical public debate doesn’t matter. And indeed, it may matter more in some fields than others. But it may also be the case that some for-profit firms find ways to encourage learning and public engagement internally even when they keep their projects out of the eye of wider publics; this has been an important claim of technology firms like Google and Apple. Indeed, research suggests that universities may be less free and dedicated to intellectual collaboration and constructive criticism than their ideals would suggest. Studies of biotechnology find that researchers in for-profit, corporate laboratories collaborate more because they are motivated by the desire to produce for collective ends and less constrained by the pursuit of status as first author or the like.

More generally, academic disciplines and research communities can develop strong norms as to what counts as legitimate research or ideas worth contemplating. In effect, they narrow the search for new knowledge based on a priori commitments to certain methods of research, privileging of certain questions and disqualification of others.

Universities are still the heart of public intellectual debate over both specific scientific questions and broader matters of policy and what works. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t take for granted that universities will always be able to play this role. The ways in which we adapt to new pressures will shape the answer. Will we provide the time and the incentive for effective public debate? This is one of the major contributions universities can make, serving as relatively disinterested agents of quality control in the production and circulation of knowledge. This is more perhaps more valuable than ever as so much dubious information circulates along with the good on the Internet. But it won’t happen if academic work is narrowed too much and academics are not encouraged to devote time and energy to public intellectual engagement.

Ironically, to constitute an effective intellectual public, academic institutions may need some level of insulation from wider influences. It is important that communities of competent researchers be the judges of quality. Science will not be advanced if intellectual judgements are reduced to markets or the wider field of public opinion.

In sum: At their best, universities like Hitotsubashi and LSE have been the most important of all modern institutions for securing the combination of ever-better knowledge, improved through research, with effective human capacity to use that knowledge, acquired through education. We have achieved this by mobilising knowledge for the public good, sharing it as a public good, and advancing it through public engagement.

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Nov 17 2015

After the Paris Attacks

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Professor Craig Calhoun, Director of London School of Economics

Professor Craig Calhoun, Director of London School of Economics

The 13 November attacks in Paris must trouble anyone who cares about peace, the security of ordinary people as they go about their lives, and the future of international cooperation – including higher education and intellectual life.

LSE grieves at both the personal and the global level.

We are saddened by the death of our recent alumnus Valentin Ribet.  A French lawyer who had completed his LLM at LSE last year, he was just at the start of his career. We will never know the range of wonderful contributions he might have made, in the practice of law or as a concerned citizen.


And we are saddened too that this latest set of events is part of a large-scale pattern of violence. This is directly at odds with what we do and what we value.

The violence stretches back decades but has intensified since the invasion of Iraq. It has a Middle Eastern focus but connects far-flung parts of the world, especially along the fault lines and paths of former empires: French and British, of course; Ottoman and Russian; Chinese and Arab. Today’s networks of illicit trade and political violence are ironically an aspect of the very globalization they disrupt.

LSE is also intrinsically part of global society. We bring together students from 155 countries. LSE works to understand the structure of global connections: markets, migrations, media, international relations, multinational organisations. We are attentive to conflict and violence but hope that our work supports international cooperation. We seek to bring research-based knowledge to bear on finding solutions to major public problems and encouraging innovation for a better society.

Some of this work is national. LSE contributes to public policy in the UK, seeking to improve the NHS, the educational system, the transport infrastructure, and economic growth in all the country’s regions. But Britain is intrinsically international. From its own multi-national constitution to its citizens from all over the world (and especially former colonies) Britain benefits from diversity and global connections. Its economy, its cultural creativity, and its security all depend on how we relate to the world not just what goes on inside our borders. Britain can decide whether to remain a member of the EU but it cannot decide to withdraw from the world.

So LSE also helps Britain deal more effectively with its global challenges and make more effective global contributions. London is one of the world’s great financial centres. It is also a centre of culture and with it tourism and a range of economic activity from art to advertising and indeed education itself. And remarkably, in a time of austerity the British government has maintained its support for economic growth and human wellbeing elsewhere, refusing to cut support for its Department for International Development.

And of course LSE contributes not only to Britain but also to the world. Our alumni shape policies on every continent – sometimes as ministers and heads of state, sometimes as business leaders, legislators, journalists, judges, and academics. Our research focuses on issues like climate change, inequality, financial risk, and public health that all call for global cooperation.

Violence challenges this work. It makes it harder for countries to cooperate in shared policies. Already we see the difficulties created by the failure of European countries to develop a shared response to an increased flow of refugees – itself directly the consequence of violence.

Violence also encourages insularity borne of anxiety as well as solidarity. In rightly responding to the terrible events in France, for example, much of the media have demonstrated that the West cares more about itself than its declarations of global values sometime imply. The equally terrible events last week in Beirut received no such attention.

In this context it is important that we remain alert to the personal and human dimensions of events like the Paris attacks that took the like of Valentin Ribet and so many others. Individuals and families suffer. And sensitivity to that suffering reminds us to see it in other settings as well, in distant communities where bombs fall, in the faces of refugees. Most of our work at the LSE is about the big picture, the causal factors, the systemic risks. But the human beings also matter.

Professor Craig Calhoun

Director, London School of Economics

Posted by: Posted on by LSE Internal Communications