Insular arguments

November 21, 2003

Alison Wolf (Columnist, THES , November 14) paints a dismal but familiar picture of UK higher education and its inherent parochialism.

Only one sentence in the entire article mentions the benefits (to "our own students and academics") of the net influx of European Union students to the UK. If the UK sends fewer students than it receives, that is a comment on the educational system we run in the UK and its deficiencies in preparing non-linguists for sojourns abroad, not a valid criticism of the Erasmus and Socrates programmes.

Nothing further is said about the contribution that these students might make to classes; about the value of having postgraduate students who have come from other systems, and who may well come here because they came here as undergraduates; about the strikingly high calibre of (other) EU postdoctoral staff; about the hope that some of us have that staff appointed from, frankly, better university systems than our own might belatedly help raise the standard of UK research so that it becomes genuinely "internationally excellent".

None of these clear academic benefits of maximising EU student intake is allowed to intrude on a depressingly mercantile and short-term argument.

Which says it all, really.

D. A. Trotter
University of Wales Aberystwyth

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