20 years ago

April 24, 2008

"Reading for a degree is out of fashion, and has come to seem either a quaint affectation, or even worse, a flaunting of elitism by association. But the use of written aids to passing degrees is increasingly in vogue. I've noticed a growing enthusiasm among my students for lecture hand-outs. Putting a pile of them down at the foot of the lectern is like throwing bread to pigeons ... But the lecture hand-out is even more subversive of the real purpose of universities than is the textbook. Hand-outs are the weapons of orthodoxy, just as books are the vehicles of variety and subversion. Without ready access to books, universities cannot function. Reading for a degree is being replaced by following a course of instruction." (Rodney Barker)

Diana Warwick's voice was among the keenest raised in favour of scrapping the tea break at a recent conference on continuing education at the University of Warwick. Naturally the general secretary of the Association of University Teachers was eager not to lose a word of what speakers and participants might say, but she was also overheard admitting that her lack of interest in liquid refreshment had some connection with the Coventry to London train timetable and tickets for that night's performance of South Pacific.

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