Blow away oligarchies

November 4, 1994

John Rear's defence of managerial sensitivity to academic issues is encouraging. As he says, "good management does not exclude collegiality"; it may encourage it, as responsibility for courses in modular structures is located with the staff most actively involved in delivering them.

There is another aspect of good management in education which could be taken into account: the ability to see the student as a "customer". Although much of the philosophy of "market forces" promoted by the present government serves as a disguise of short-term consumerism and political convenience, and the hostility felt towards that is entirely reasonable, it would be a mistake to reject the notion of "student as customer" entirely. There are today many more kinds of student, in terms of age, social and cultural background and extent of life experience; many of them are articulate about their educational needs, and are well able to participate in academic debate and the structuring of future provision -- in terms of both content and mode of delivery.

In time, the needs of those who wish to learn throughout life may be best met by a broader, more flexible and varied pattern of courses, combined with both academic and professional or vocational qualifications. Sometimes this may involve universities being partners with industry in a consortium to provide such opportunities. Perhaps it will mean subsuming both "education" and "training" in the student-centred activity "learning".

Good management, sensitive to collegiate and community issues, will be even more necessary in that possible future than it is now.


Arts and Entertainment Training Council

York Street


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