Thursday, December 14, 2006

Leaving LSE

Yesterday I had the presentation ceremony for my Master's and it felt like quite a composed goodbye to an institution I was a part of for four years. The LSE has changed me a lot and broadened my perspective massively. However, I think it now probably is time to move on, to find a new institutional home which can hopefully keep me as engaged as I was at LSE (not always with my studies) while perhaps providing a more professional environment which I have often thrived in.

Two interesting things to note from the ceremony. First, Robert Mundell received an honorary doctorate from the LSE on the grounds of his achievements in economics (a Nobel Prize and more) and his connection to the school (he wrote his thesis at the LSE). During the speech Danny Quah mentioned Mundell's appearances on Letterman. So far this is the only one I can dig up:

Plus this, not video but the same basic idea:

"If you missed last night's Late Show with David Letterman, you missed Robert A. Mundell, 1999 Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, read "Top Ten Ways My Life Has Changed Since Winning The Nobel Prize":

Top Ten Ways My Life Has Changed Since Winning The Nobel Prize

10. Can end almost any argument by asking, "And did you ever win a Nobel Prize?"

9. Whenever I bring it to Applebee's restaurant, I get a free plate of riblets heading my way

8. When I enter a room, I shout, "Nobel Prize winner in the hizzouse!"

7. At most 7-11s, I can get service even if I choose not to wear shoes or a shirt

6. Instead of saying, "Kiss my ass" to guys who cut me off in traffic, I now say, "Kiss my Nobel Prize-winning ass"

5. I've been banned from casinos in seven states

4. When I call K-Rock to request Aerosmith, they play Aerosmith

3. Any meaningless crap I say, the next day it's in the Wall Street Journal

2. Another Friday, another P. Diddy party

1. In Stockholm, I get more tail than Frank Sinatra"

Finally, on a slightly more serious note, my uncle was at the graduation ceremony and wasn't impressed by Howard Davies' plea to screw with league tables:

"Should any market surveyor approach you to ask your salary, please put down the highest figure you can bring yourself to put, he told them. No-one will ever check.

'I thought the LSE was a hotbed for radical socialist thought,' I said to my right-wing nephew after the show. I'd spent all these years fearing he was misplaced.

'What happened?'

'That all went out with the sixties,' he replied.

Before his current job , Howard Davies was head of the Financial Services Agency, the UK's single financial regulator. Previously he was Deputy Governor of the Bank of England after three years as Director General of the Confederation of British Industry. 1987 to 1992 saw him as Controller of the Audit Commission. His whole official role has been one of enforcing financial probity. His rallying call to his graduating students is that no-one will even check, go out and lie on behalf of your School, because the amount you earn is what it's all about. In this week of 8.8 billion pounds of bonuses paid in the city, maybe he's simply jealous - and I suppose that in advocating lying he was at least being honest about his true values - but how sad, pitiful and desperate it all truly is."

I'm afraid Martin has gotten a little overanxious about the particular quote. Davies spent some time earlier describing how little he thought of league tables and, more generally, those who think of education primarily as a contributor to economic welfare rather than the search for truth. The joke was intended to be a snipe at league tables and how easily they can be manipulated.

On the more general theme of the death of radicalism at the LSE I think it is important to note the second half of the "It went out with the 60s" answer, which Martin doesn't quote, which was that the influx of international students killed it. Having over half the students be from outside the UK with far less interest in UK domestic politics and high, international, fees to justify in their post university earning power made a return to the radical protest movement of the sixties impossible.

Note that this means that the LSE has traded radicalism for cosmopolitanism. This is, perhaps, a trade Martin might find rather more noble than exchanging radicalism for City bonuses.

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