Leader: Living with new laws

January 14, 2005

New legislation (especially from Europe) invariably brings with it predictions of unintended consequences and unnecessary bureaucracy. The Freedom of Information Act is a prime example, with universities and other public bodies bracing themselves for an avalanche of time-consuming and possibly malicious requests for data. Some may still find their worst fears realised, but the early signs are that the experience of Irish universities and others in countries with similar legislation will be repeated. A small number of former staff and students will try to revive old disputes, journalists will experiment with a new investigative tool, but the impact will be limited.

The same may be true of Europe's legislation on age discrimination. Employers fear that graduate training schemes may fall foul of the new rules because they are dominated by twenty-somethings, forcing firms to recruit more widely. No one wants to place new obstacles in the way of those embarking on an already difficult search for employment but, if the legislation helps older graduates, it is surely doing its job. Despite the fact that they are in an overall majority in UK higher education, mature students have always been at a disadvantage in the labour market. Now at least they will be able to demand equal consideration.

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