Come clean on school backgrounds

November 21, 1997

At a time when the extensive wealth of the Oxbridge Colleges is being revealed, Sir Robert May's views on research funding (THES, November 14) are as inappropriate as they are misguided. If adopted they would perpetuate an elitist culture for a select number of universities consigning the vast majority to the mediocrity of compromise.

A higher education establishment without a research base is not a university. Such anachronistic institutions were excised from the British scene 20 years ago. A university system for the people has to be cognisant of its educational as well as its training purpose. Research underpins the former but not necessarily the latter.

If the government takes Sir Robert's advice it will ignore its own educational aspirations at its peril. It would not only consign the majority of UK universities to the second, third and fourth divisions of the international league tables but would perpetuate the unfair economic and cultural bias of an outdated system.

The implications of such a policy on social stability should not be underestimated. Research should be funded at the universities, however young, however old, if each can demonstrate through the quality of its output, rather than through its accumulated wealth and historic reputation, that it is seriously fulfilling its mission as a quality institution of learning.

Michael Scott,

Pro vice chancellor De Montfort University

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