The Times Higher Educational Supplement on the decline of obsessive eccentricity in UK higher education ….

… a stress on “perseverance and sociability at the expense of intelligence and creativity” has had the effect of excluding the “brilliant, impulsive, inspired, antisocial oddballs”. […] creativity of genius level usually needs high IQ and moderately high […] antisocial and impulsive behaviour with the ability to fluently generate rather loosely associated ideas.”

Recent developments in the academy — long apprenticeships, avoidance of speculative and risky projects, selection procedures that look for hard-working, compliant and agreeable people — all work against this.

There’s also a THES leader article on the topic

[undergraduates] may now arrive at university with an imagination stultified by the [school] national curriculum and an intellect blunted by a battery of examinations. They may turn up with demands because they pay tuition fees, but at that age can the customer always be right? If we accept Seldon’s warning that “a soulless, loveless, desiccated education damages children for a lifetime”, university is the last chance to stop that happening.

All part, in my opinion, of the wider decline in the once taken-for-granted tolerance of the classic British eccentric. One can still see it in the persona and fan-adoration of Doctor Who, but it’s increasingly hard to discern it elsewhere (in ways that don’t involve media celebrities). As I’ve said here before, variations on the phase “he’d never be given a job/grant/chance these days” seems to be cropping up with painful regularity in media hagiographies of the long-gone mavericks of the 1960s and 70s. A useful reminder, perhaps, that eccentrics are the canaries in the coal-mines of freedom.