Letter: What price success?

November 23, 2001

Annette Zera, principal of Tower Hamlets College, says the leadership model proposed for further education "appears to rely hugely on audit and bureaucracy combined with fairly damning criticism. We are not sure this is a model for success" (Analysis, THES , November 9).

The recent history of higher education does not give her hope. We have had such a model linked to reductions in funds per student for 20 years. Professional staff have produced twice as many students at half the cost with a better average class of degree. They have ratcheted up research quality with only marginally more money from the funding councils and coped with intrusive external bureaucracy.

So, from the point of view of government and its agencies, the model works. But it does so only because of commitment by staff who have been constantly criticised. They pay a huge price - the effect on their private lives and on stress levels. This is not included in the government's cost-benefit analysis, nor on any balance sheets. So it doesn't count. Zera, Solihull's Colin Flint and other principals must prepare to defend their colleges and their colleagues.

Ian McNay
Professor of higher education and management
University of Greenwich

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