Martin Hollis complained that candidates for a lectureship here have been instructed to ask their referees to write directly to the university (THES, February 2).
The reason for adopting this brisk, and allegedly "deplorable", practice was that we wanted to make the appointment, which was only recently approved, before I leave the country for an extended spell abroad. But what I found astonishing in Professor Hollis's letter was his remark that it is only the references for the top 10 per cent of the applications that are of any importance - the rest, he says, "are headed straight for the bin".
But how is the selection of the top 10 per cent to be made? As I now try to assess our applications, there is no doubt that references matter, almost all the way down, particularly since the post is a lectureship 'A' and many of the candidates have no significant previous academic career. If any practice here deserves to be called "deplorable" it is Hollis's rejection of 90 per cent of applicants for such a post without looking at references. Applicants for University of East Anglia - you have been warned.
Thomas Baldwin University of York