Satisfied with 'satisfactory'

January 31, 2008

In the story on the Office for Standards in Education's rating of the University of Buckingham's Department of Education, it says we trained just three teachers last year ("Ofsted gives low mark to ex-chief", 24 January). We in fact trained 60. Three opted for the Training and Development Agency-accredited scheme for state schools, and the remainder for the independent school course.

You say the department achieved a "satisfactory" mark from Ofsted, against which it is appealing, and I am quoted as defending our anti-managerial culture at Buckingham. As Thomas Docherty argues, a university in the state sector operates on two planes: there is the official university where box-tickers provide a simulacrum of quality, and there is the clandestine university, where real quality can be achieved only by the methods that flourish among the best (the least regulated) universities in the world, namely the Ivy League and the liberal arts colleges of the US.

It is hard for an independent university in the UK to model itself on the official model when the advantages of the US model of freedom and excellence are so obvious.

I believe Chris Woodhead and Anthony O'Hear should wear their Ofsted badge of "satisfactory" with pride.

Buckingham comes top of the National Student Survey because the energies that other universities lavish on bureaucracy are, here, devoted to students.

Terence Kealey, Vice-chancellor, University of Buckingham.

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