Skilled workers 1

March 31, 2006

Frank Furedi ("Soft focus skews the perspective", March 10) confuses the issue of key skills with the demand for higher level skills in the economy, which is the real agenda confronting universities.

He categorises medicine and engineering as "vocational" in contrast to "academic" subjects that, one imagines, includes his own field of sociology. It is this kind of false dichotomy that informed the ill-judged rejection of the Tomlinson report and perpetuates the historic prejudice against technical and applied subjects in this country.

Furedi's candour is also breathtaking in his argument that the main determinant of the curriculum should be academics pursuing their own interests in accordance with the mysterious "integrity of their subject"

regardless, it would appear, of the outcome for students. Failing to describe learning outcomes, ignoring the needs of the economy and overlooking the changing expectations of debt-laden students are the route to ensuring that universities are truly diminished.

Deian Hopkin

Chair, Skills Task GroupUniversities UK

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