Critics do offer alternatives

August 21, 2008

Paul Temple (Letters, 14 August) complains that "anonymous critics" avoid the hard work of presenting a serious critique of the policies and processes of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and fail to suggest alternatives.

It is true that several critics of the money spent on the HEA web portal and of the way that the Subject Centres are run (see past contributions to Times Higher Education) insisted on speaking anonymously, as did a number of the informants ("Behind the scenes at the academy", 7 August).

Perhaps these critics feared that they might be suspended for months and then lose their jobs, while the HEA used its best efforts to keep their treatment secret. They might suspect that the board would not lift a finger to protect them. They saw what happened to Lee Harvey, so who could blame them?

In fact, critics have suggested plenty of alternative policies including: a survey of fellows to discover their views about what factors are inhibiting the education of students; engaging with people who actually teach students by establishing a Network of Fellows and an elected Committee of Fellows to report to the board; instituting direct elections of fellows to the board and inviting suitably experienced fellows to investigate why so many staff at HEA headquarters are dissatisfied, and why they will only speak anonymously.

The people who exercise power in the HEA don't lack alternative suggestions. They stifle debate on them, as they stifled debate on Harvey's criticisms.

Philip Burgess, Perthshire.

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