Culture clash on the way to work

April 30, 1999

Having read David Blunkett's article, I must comment on a number of points. I do so on the basis of many years' experience working with and advising undergraduates on both vocational and academic programmes of study.

First, he asserts that he wants every student to undertake work experience. This may be a laudable aim, but it may not be possible in some areas, especially rural ones, where the number of firms that can offer graduate-level, quality work experience may be unavailable. I have heard some firms hinting that they already feel overloaded with requests for work experience: how would they feel about requests for more at a higher level?

Second, Blunkett seems to hint that students on non-vocational courses such as history need work experience. Is he not aware that most undergraduates do work to support themselves and to reduce their level of debt?

There is also the assumption that courses such as history are non-vocational. It is not true to say that skills such as analytical examination of facts, presenting succinct arguments, data interpretation and presentational skills are not acquired on humanities courses. These skills all appear on typical graduate employer lists of qualities they look for in graduate entrants.

While agreeing with the need for undergraduates to develop a variety of skills, I do feel that Blunkett might be more cautious in suggesting that all humanities students need formal work experience.

Carole Williams

Woodlands, Low Common Swardeston, Norwich

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