Letter: It is indeed outrageous, minister (1)

June 22, 2001

Margaret Hodge, the new minister for higher education, says that she was neglected as a student at the London School of Economics in the 1960s and allowed to get away with writing only one essay in three years ("Hodge puts her weight behind QAA", THES , June 15).

Hodge does not seem to realise that the "outrageous" phenomenon she describes is on the increase everywhere and that her government is to blame. It does not take a genius to work out the consequence of a policy that increases the number of students while at the same time reducing the number of teachers.

The idea that the Quality Assurance Agency will remedy the problem is pure fantasy. The Dearing report stated the obvious when it said that contact hours between students and their teachers were an important measure of the quality of education. But when I wrote to the chief executive of the QAA asking how the agency monitors contact hours, the reply was that the agency does not monitor them at all.

And what if, as sometimes happens, a university claims that it is providing far more hours than its students are getting? The answer is the same: the QAA does nothing.

Colwyn Williamson
Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards

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