Laurie Taylor Column

April 6, 2001

Anything new in The THES this week?

There is a major research study pointing out that the teaching quality assessment cost more than £100m and lasted ten years and was probably a complete waste of time and money.

Where would we be without major research studies?

And a long piece about new universities. Apparently, six of them are facing financial crisis and they may have to sack hundreds of academics. It is all down to lack of students. The government's decision to introduce tuition fees and scrap maintenance grants has led to serious under-recruitment.

But doesn't that affect every university?

Not really. You see, the Higher Education Funding Council for England announced last August that institutions could recruit 4 per cent more students than had originally been agreed without facing penalties. And that meant that students who might normally go to new universities were snapped up by the older institutions.

But why do students prefer old institutions?

They have more money and resources and higher research assessment exercise and TQA scores.

But haven't the new universities also got a better record for widening participation?

Oh yes. But that doesn't butter any parsnips when it comes to resources.

So nobody fancies going to universities that have been systematically discriminated against in terms of money and resources?

There is a brighter side. Hefce is now sensitively considering their recovery plans.

Having been almost solely responsible for putting them in a situation that requires such plans?

I wouldn't want to go as far as that.

You wouldn't?

Not without a major research study.

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