Have standards hit an iceberg? 4

December 3, 2004

A lot of academics would agree with Peter Williams that people should be given the opportunity to try to secure higher qualifications. But institutions such as ours that take the risk and accept students who may not stay the course are, contrary to Williams' suggestion, not usually applauded but penalised.

It is, as he says, expensive to provide the level of support necessary to attain the level of academic success and inclusion required.

In management circles this is called overteaching and is discouraged.

Our salary bill, for example, is £45 million a year; our teaching grant £39 million a year. The university tries to square the circle by curtailing student learning time and packing in more students. It is a sad state of affairs and may worsen after the introduction of fees in 2006.

Perhaps Prince Charles can be persuaded to try his hand as Secretary for Education and close down Williams' Quality Assurance Agency, close down the Higher Education Funding Council for England, give us back our academic autonomy and return us to good old-fashioned terms.

Andrew Chanerley
University of East London

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