Grasp the cost nettle

April 11, 1997

From Brian Riches

IN ARGUING against new approaches to the organisation of research and teaching Geoffrey Channon and Kate Fullbrook (THES, March 28) neglect the danger that without radical change universities could lose their traditional business to more cost-effective alternatives.

As continuing education post-16 and beyond 18 becomes the norm for an increasing number of students it will become harder to justify the approximate doubling of the cost per student at age 18.

And, while accepting that research requirements differ between subjects, it is difficult to see what will halt the concentration of funds on the best.

William Solesbury and Janet Lewis (THES, February 14) argue for "active management of both financial and human resources", and "an organisational separation of the university's distinct business" as the means by which it can retain a research and teaching mission but undertake both activities more effectively. Far from raising the spectre of the binary line this raises the possibility of a university with a comprehensive research and teaching mission competing with the best at all levels.

Brian Riches, Mellor Road, Leicester

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