It is deeply worrying that an education secretary should be wondering out loud about the purpose, role and value of UK universities ("Devil's advocate ignites row", THES , May 16). Charles Clarke's department should have briefed him better. It has the statistics.
Indeed, his own office has told potential students that they must pay more for degrees because their employment value and earnings potential with a degree far outstrip the fees to be levied.
We may now begin to understand the lack of thinking that so obviously misinformed the white paper.
Clarke's mock-debate buffoonery is simply more of the old prevarication thrown up in the forlorn hope that some other solution will offer itself or that the problem of radical underfunding will disappear.
If Clarke wants to engage in academic debate, then let him enrol and pay fees (or get his parents to pay), like any other seeker after truth and understanding.
Andrew J. Morgan