Letter: Some paradoxes of participation 1

December 14, 2001

Natfhe's Tom Wilson (Letters, THES , December 7) makes a big mistake in supposing that allowing any new university to "go to the wall" would be "disastrous" for participation.

There is nothing inherently right about the present number of higher education institutions. In fact, the current position inhibits participation, and mergers need urgently to be put on the agenda.

Last summer, several new universities made cuts, laying off lecturers and narrowing the range of subjects offered. I was employed at the University of Luton, which engaged in a brutal and chaotic "repositioning" exercise that eliminated 11 subjects.

The result has been a shambles for students whose lecturers have been axed. There are far fewer subjects available to those who might need to study locally, and the limited range must raise questions about Luton's university status.

Merging Luton with a bigger, more secure university might have allowed more subjects to continue at a Luton "campus". This could be achieved by big savings where they are really needed - in university bureaucracies.

One merged university certainly would not need two departments for admissions, marketing and teaching and learning - nor two vice-chancellors on six-figure salaries.

Ian Fribbance
London NW7

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