Insular Britons

December 6, 2002

According to the European Student Survey 2002, "almost two-thirds of British students lack the essential skills and attitudes to compete for top graduate jobs across Europe" ( THES , 29 November). Clearly something is amiss.

British universities have striven after RAE-defined "international excellence" in research while neglecting the "internationalisation" of their students' education. This would explain why access to language learning has been allowed to atrophy in some universities (the survey reports that British students were less likely to speak another language than their European counterparts). It also explains why so many British graduates are not that European-minded (another finding).

This shocking situation has a lot to do with the insular mentality that characterises much strategic thinking among senior academic managers. British universities too often act locally without thinking globally. Maybe the time has come to start ranking them by assessing how well they prepare their students for the international jobs market.

David Head
University of Plymouth Business School

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