Wheels fall off model

September 22, 2011

It was disappointing that the report celebrating Toyota as a model of efficiency made no reference to its repeated product recalls ("Academic efficiency drive may put Toyota at the wheel", 15 September).

Since 2009, something in the region of 12 million Toyota cars have had to be recalled globally due to problems with floor mats, accelerator pedals, fuel pipes and brake software, among other concerns. Conservative estimates put the cost of lost output and sales at $2 billion (£1. billion) and in 2010, Akio Toyoda, Toyota's president, publicly humbled himself when he stated that he was "deeply sorry".

Government higher education policy has the feel of a car crash waiting to happen. However, everyone who cares about higher education has a responsibility to limit the damaging human consequences arising from flawed change methodologies. The critical thinking that characterises our universities could even inform how change is reported.

A major difference between university students and cars is that students have feelings, hopes and desires that should be respected; another is that the recall process is far more complex. The costs of recalling students to redo their degrees or compensate them for the flaws that we subsequently discover would be considerable.

I would enjoy watching vice-chancellors humbly bowing like Toyoda, but in failing to think critically we would all be complicit.

Mark Hughes, Brighton Business School, University of Brighton

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