'Dream on, Lord May' 1

July 30, 2004

Speaking from a department that is due to be closed, although it is not struggling, I have considerable sympathy for the funding council's efforts to make universities give a notice period before they wield the axe ("10-year plan poses threat to autonomy", July 16).

If universities want total autonomy, they can stop taking Government money and charge all students full economic fees. The taxpayer, who is paying up to 90 per cent of a "home" student's fees, is entitled to see some return in the form, for example, of National Health Service dentists in towns where there is none, maths teachers in schools that are short of them, and linguists of strategic languages. If you think autonomous universities will provide these without "Stalinist" intervention, dream on, Lord May.

Don Starr
Department of East Asian Studies
Durham University

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