A simple reminder

August 18, 2011

Your article "We can't afford to be too choosy" (11 August) illustrates how easy it is to build a sensational story out of a private email.

It might be useful, though, to set the record straight. Yes, the College of Arts and Law at the University of Birmingham wishes to recruit as many highly qualified postgraduate students as it reasonably can. Yes, as heads of school we encourage colleagues to accept for supervision candidates who meet the entry criteria and whose chosen topics are within our expertise. Yes, our college has financial incentives for meeting and exceeding targets, and penalties for not meeting them. None of this is particularly odd or draconian in the context of life in a university with a high level of postgraduate recruitment.

We do not permit colleagues to accept students who do not meet entry requirements or who we think are unsuitable for postgraduate study. We do not ask them to take on a heavy workload of postgraduate supervision without adjusting other duties to allow for that. We do encourage them to put themselves forward for supervising suitable applicants. Helen Beebee's email to her colleagues was a simple reminder of these facts.

Susan Hunston, Head of the School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, College of Arts and Law, University of Birmingham

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