Hail the return of the binary divide 1

March 14, 2003

Ending the binary divide allowed working-class and ethnic minority students greater access to the intellectual stimulation of being taught in "new" university departments informed by lively research ("White paper used 20-year-old study", THES , March 7). The divisive research funding regime announced last week will change all that. It will create two classes of student - the "skilled" and the culture-rich - and two classes of staff. This will have catastrophic effects on staff retention and recruitment in new universities.

Ambitious staff will switch to where research is funded rather than stay in what will become teaching-only institutions. No ambitious postgraduates will wish to apply for jobs in teaching-only institutions.

How will all the researchers in "new and emerging" research benefiting from 3a and 3b funding be identified given its interdisciplinary nature? Overall, vast amounts of innovative and valuable research of national, and even international, importance is likely to be lost.

The effects of these decisions on large numbers of academics and students will be to reduce the quality of teaching and learning and to reaffirm the class divide. Getting a few more socially disadvantaged students into the old universities will not change this, and harping on about "good" and "bad" universities and Mickey Mouse degrees will exacerbate this divide.

And this all from a Labour government.

Wendy Wheeler
Department of humanities, arts and languages
London Metropolitan University

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