Letter: Vive la différence

September 21, 2001

Brian Ramsden suggests that British higher education could cut administrative costs and succeed with fewer than 170 institutions (Analysis, THES , September 7).

He reports that France has just 100 for a population of about 59 million. One of the differences between France and Britain that does not come out in Ramsden's reported remarks is that teachers at French universities accept most applicants with the appropriate entry qualifications and do not assume responsibility for their students' success at university.

In contrast, British universities are "picky" about the students they admit, but, once they are admitted into the fold, staff focus on their intellectual and social development.

British universities are perceived to have failed in their mission to attract and educate able young men and women when one of their students fails or drops out. It is not the same in France.

Administration of higher education in France may be less expensive than in Britain, but it is perhaps because it is not such a thorough service.

Faced with one university that will do the least it can for you and another that will do the most it can within constraints, which one is more likely to be perceived by prospective students, their parents and wider society as offering the best service?

Nicholas Beyts
London SW7

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