No star ratings

April 5, 2018

Cathy Shrank is right to take the universities minister, Sam Gyimah, to task over his plans to introduce consumer-style ratings for degree courses, but I’m not sure she goes far enough (“Moneysupermarket ratings will not work for university courses, Mr Gyimah”, Opinion, 22 March). The minister’s analogy is both inapt and inept – aside, of course, from the narrative such language constructs and frames.

First, is there any other consumer relationship where the value of what I pay for is in part down to my effort? That I don’t speak German doesn’t give me the right to demand a lesser price for a work by Brecht, or to insist that the bookseller take it back when it turns out that I can’t read it. Second, not only will rating degrees by earnings spur graduates to take better-paid jobs in London, as Shrank argues, it will almost inevitably feed its way somehow into managerial pressure on academic staff when the students come to speak to them about life after university, and eventually perhaps even become a target by which we can be measured and then berated when we fall short.

David Mead
Professor of UK human rights law
UEA Law School
University of East Anglia

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