Letter: IT liberators(1)

December 21, 2000

I thoroughly agree with Jeffrey Henderson on how to compete with the United States ("To excel, simply remove red tape", THES, December 8), particularly on the use of transcripts detailing graduates' performance.

We could improve on the transcript system. For example, five columns might be available in which to record grades for: practicals, coursework, projects or problem-based learning, examination, and "other". In this way, employers who are looking for certain kinds of skills can get a better picture of how students have been assessed and what the grades might imply.

Research could be under-taken to see which of these methods of assessment gives the best predictive validity for various kinds of occupation.

To run such a transcript system would require comp-uter organisation equivalent to that at the University of California in the 1970s. Can our universities match that? Yet British universities are unwilling to pay reasonable rates for those with proven IT skills (I say proven IT skills, for I find physicists and mathematicians provide superb computing environments and do excellent problem-solving). Good computing infrastructure can improve the working environment, increase productivity and reduce stress. It probably does not require the hiring of commercial organisations, but it does require paying people enough to retain them.

Carol Taylor Fitz-Gibbon
Director, Curriculum, Evaluation and Management Centre
University of Durham

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