I share with the pseudonymous Joe Bone (Soapbox, THES , February 8) doubts about the relationship between the government's economic vision and its higher education policies. But his article, "This policy's just not working", is the last thing new universities - let alone northern ones - need or deserve.
I too have been exasperated from time to time by uncommitted, unmotivated or just plain lazy students. Their presence need not, however, be associated with widened participation. At the ancient university I attended more than 30 years ago, it was tacitly recognised that a sizeable minority of students were there for the sport and social activities unconnected with the curriculum. But the problem was academically invisible in a system that demanded they get up just once a week in time for the tutorial and passed exams at the end of three years.
To stereotype the diverse body of new university students as a bunch of assertively ignorant plagiarists who do not know what a library is constitutes a gross slur on a vast number of hard-working enthusiasts. Many of these are tenaciously pursuing their studies under difficulties that would have been rare a generation ago. They make the most of all their chances. It is also a slur on the staff who work with them and the institutions that have done so much to extend genuine opportunity.
Professor of English and cultural studies
University of Teesside