The perverse use of learning outcomes as instruments of performance management is a classic example of the "bureaucratisation of good intentions", about which PA Consulting Group wrote in THE's pages last year ("Misaligned targets", Opinion, 9 June 2011). As Phil Baty observes ("Restate the statements of intent", Leader, 29 November), the original intentions of Robert Barr and John Tagg were eminently laudable and are, if anything, even more pertinent today, when the value and benefits of higher education in the era of higher fees are the subject of rigorous debate.
The fault lies not with the ambition of explicit learning outcomes but with clumsy attempts to codify and measure the results of essentially personal educational experiences. The issue is not, as Frank Furedi would have it, about holding academics and institutions to account but being clear about what higher education is for. You do not have to buy into the consumerist view of education to justify the need for clarity about what students should expect from investing three years and more than £,000 in a university education.
Rather than abandoning this ambition, we should take a more imaginative approach towards articulating such expectations within the student-teacher deal.
Mike Boxall, Higher education expert, PA Consulting Group