A Victorian plot to drive down wages

June 2, 1995

Kathryn Ecclestone's letter (THES, May 26) is a welcome, commonsense response to the wilder advocates of "NVQs for everything" but she holds back from the deserved total condemnation of the idea.

Those who object to NVQs on educational grounds are partly, but not wholly right: NVQs have their origin in Mrs Thatcher's drive to "Victorian values" - in this case the Victorian value of apprenticeship, leading to the total dependence of the worker on the employer. They are part of the Conservative objection to any barrier to employers paying as little as possible for labour - hence the attack on unions, on professions, and the focus on workplace wage deals. It is clearly the Government's intention that NVQs should drive out all other qualifications for work, including professional qualifications.

In other words, NVQs are not an education and training tool, but an economic tool of a centralising, anti-humanistic, anti-society Government. Universities and professional bodies should reject NVQs - if they do not, they will find that their roles in the preparation of an educated workforce are lost.

TOM WILSON

Head, department of information studies University of Sheffield

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