Falling standards? (3)

November 26, 2004

Your poll on declining standards concerns me for two reasons ("Poll reveals pressure to dumb down", November 19). First, the article seems to imply that only well-qualified school leavers are entitled to a university education and that it is only because there are "gaps" left to fill that we then recruit students with non-traditional entry requirements, resulting in difficulties in achieving standards.

I work in a culture that embraces diversity and values it for the richness of experience it offers traditional and non-traditional students. Yes, it provides challenges, but instead of complaining about "dumbing down", academics should be seeking to embed mechanisms in their programmes for enhancing academic skills and valuing the journey that many non-traditional students must travel to achieve the same standard as their traditional counterparts.

Second, the findings are reported as if they are a valid and reliable indicator of the views of academics across the sector. To reach such a conclusion, much greater detail regarding the number and characteristics of respondents is necessary. The emotive language used and the leading nature of the questions also bring the credibility of the poll into question. In short, the poll may (or may not) represent the views of a small minority of academics who are responding to a set of biased questions. The article's value is limited to the provision of a useful lesson to my undergraduate students on how not to report survey findings.

Angela Morgan
Learning and teaching coordinator
University of Teesside

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