Letter: We've got a Bone to pick, Joe 1

February 15, 2002

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.

Ben Knights
Professor of English and cultural studies
University of Teesside

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