Tower of Babel shock

June 5, 2014

In an exclusive interview, the architect of the Tower of Babel has cast doubt on the recent claim by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, that by the year 2050 people will no longer be talking about the fiasco of his student loans policy.

Speaking to our reporter Keith Ponting (30), the Babel architect said that he had always hoped that the failure of his tower to reach heaven would soon be forgotten, in much the same way that Mr Willetts now hoped that the failure of his student loans edifice to save a single penny for the public purse would fade into history. But sadly, the architect noted, his tower still served as a monument to human folly several thousand years after its erection.

(Mr Willetts is expected to leave his post in the near future.)


Watch out – here comes the QAA!

“Let’s be fair to the QAA.”

That was how Jamie Targett, our Director of Corporate Affairs, reacted to concerns about alleged irregularities at the for-profit London School of Science and Technology, many of whose students claim support from the public-backed Student Loans Company.

Mr Targett admitted that just eight months ago the Quality Assurance Agency had visited the LSST for a second time and again given a clean bill of health to an institution that was recently alleged by a newspaper to be misusing public funds.

This might suggest to a hostile critic that these QAA inspections had been less than adequate. “But remember,” said Mr Targett, “eight months is a long time in quality assurance. An institution can easily go off the rails in such an extended period.”

But he was happy to report that the ball was now firmly back in the QAA’s court after the announcement that its inspectors would be popping back to the LSST this very autumn for yet another inspection.

“That prospect”, said Mr Targett, “will really have the LSST directors quaking in their boots.”


Unpopular? There’s the door

Our Head of Curriculum Development, Janet Fluellen, has expressed her “admiration” for the “Snowden method” of teaching evaluation.

In this method, named after the vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey, Sir Christopher Snowden, lecturers are expected to achieve at least 3.8 points out of 5 in module evaluation questionnaires completed by their students. If they fall short, they will be asked to attend an “informal capability meeting” that, according to the union, can eventually lead to dismissal.

Ms Fluellen said that she was “frankly amazed” to learn that some academics at Surrey had questioned the fairness of the scheme because it discriminated against those who were teaching unpopular courses. “Why on earth”, she asked, “is anyone at a modern university going forward teaching subjects that have not already been pre-tested for student popularity?”


Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

Please note that finals marking pairs who are attending this week’s relationship counselling session should be accompanied by their disputed scripts.

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham