All stressed up to go, go, go

September 22, 1995

Stress is good for you, former higher education minister Tim Boswell told the massed ranks of Britain's academic external relations professionals.

Asked for his tips on stress management, Mr Boswell gamely recognised the government's expansion of higher education had caused extra pressures for all involved.

But he said the squeeze in higher education was better than a blank cheque to bring about effective change: "Of course the nature of expansion and the pressure on resources led people to have pressure they did not have before," said Mr Boswell, now enjoying pastures new as an agriculture minister.

"Equally, there are many other factors causing stress at the staff or student level. A statistic I looked at with considerable interest is student drop-outs. They have generally been pretty stable so far, which, given the expansion, is an indication the pressures have been contained."

He added: "You do need to put institutions under some pressure in order to get them to use their resources effectively and economically. If we signed a blank cheque it would be quite difficult to get the improvements we wanted."

Mr Boswell was speaking at the joint Higher Education External Relations Association and Council for the Advancement and Support of Education conference at his local higher education institution, Nene College in Northampton, last week.

He bemoaned the lack of general understanding about the changed nature of mass higher education system.

Mr Boswell went on to say: "When you move from 5 per cent, when you are by definition educating an elite, to 30 per cent participation, you are into mass education and the outcomes are bound to change."

He added: "Do we want an absolute single standard? Well, possibly not. But one does not need a complete incoherence in which everyone selects the degree classification they think is adequate.

"I think wherever a degree comes from it should be something special."

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