Fresh food for parasites

April 9, 2009

Alan Ryan cannot be serious in proposing an Ofqual for higher education (News, 2 April).

Who in teaching and research is going to be willing to give time to the accreditation of courses on the European model? Who does Ryan imagine has the academic expertise to judge and approve a syllabus covering all subjects? Power will go into the hands of apparatchiks with agendas advising politicians with votes to catch. Without institutional autonomy there will be no academic freedom.

What constitutes a "subject"? The subject benchmark statements on the Quality Assurance Agency website and the discussion of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary programme specifications respect the freedom of academic subject communities to run their own show and the fact that the taxonomy of knowledge is constantly changing. Why does Ryan object to that? Attempts to pin things down in assessing research have been unsuccessful. It has long been noted that "subject-based" assessment favours work in the centre of conventional subject areas.

What would all this cost? It would be a whole new industry for the parasites who feed off higher education.

G.R. Evans, University of Cambridge.

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