Letter: Modernity knocks

May 25, 2001

What an old-fashioned view of the role of higher education "League Tables 2001" ( THES , May 18) assume. In February last year, about 60 metres from where I sit, education secretary David Blunkett identified three imperatives - social inclusion, wealth creation and globalisation - for higher education this century.

The table on entry standards can be seen as an index of social exclusion. It dismis-ses, and therefore diminishes, the qualifications held by a significant and growing subset of applicants and deals only with full-time first degrees.

This is compounded by the table on degree classes, which allows nothing for value added and the transforming effect of higher education.

The destinations table combines two elements: those who can get a job immediately and contribute to wealth creation and those who need further training subsidised by those who get jobs. The two are contrasts, not complements.

The tables ignore the global role of higher education. Where are the international students and levels of partnership with other countries?

If the tables gave fair weighting to such factors, they would show the modern universities are exactly that: modern and fit for the communities they serve.

Ian McNay
Professor of higher education and management
University of Greenwich

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