Come to a good end

February 11, 2016

Toxicology, the study of poisons, is now a mature branch of science, but there are other kinds of toxicity. One of these is the idea of a “good university”, and I believe that this is a “toxic idea” for two reasons. The first is that there is an almost irresistible temptation to assume that if there are “good universities”, there must also be “bad universities”, whereas a little thought shows that this inductive step is unjustified. The second objection is linked to what Fred Hirsch called the “social limits to growth”: if institutions are ranked, only 50 per cent of them can be in the top half. I am sorry to report that after 34 years in universities, I have not discovered a mainstream British university that is bad, although they are all different and all have strengths and many student successes. The idea of a good university is toxic. Perhaps we should stop using the epithet.

Rhobert Lewis
Brecon, Wales

Send to

Letters should be sent to:
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday.
View terms and conditions.

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 6 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

Home secretary says government will support 'best' universities

Man handing microphone to audience member

Academic attainment of disadvantaged students can be improved if they can decide how they are assessed, study claims

Woman drinking tea from saucer

Plugging a multibillion-pound deficit exacerbated by June’s poll result may require ‘drastic measures’, analysts have warned

Italy's gold medallist

New measures to ensure universities are ‘not penalised’ for taking poorer students also outlined for next stage of TEF

Classroom, school

Higher education institutions can and should do more to influence education at a secondary school level, says Edward Peck