Quality with a very modern irony

April 26, 1996

Jennie Bristow's piece on the effects of quantity on quality in universities (THES, April 5) contained a singular irony. The course she cited as an example of the "access-driven" restructured, modularised curriculum which offers such an impoverished experience, has in fact been running at Sussex for over 25 years.

I took "The modern European mind" when I was a student here in the early 1970s. It was then, and remains, a difficult and challenging course, exemplifying the interdisciplinarity which characterised the then new and radical style of teaching and learning.

That personal dissatisfaction with such a course is attributed to a general sense that a generation is being cheated, points to a disturbing possibility. When I came to university, I felt fortunate indeed. I knew I was receiving what Ms Bristow calls a "quality education" and, while not always welcoming the demands to take a measure of responsibility for my own learning which such an education entails, I appreciated their purpose.

I know universities such as Sussex continue to offer demanding courses. But do we communicate to students the value of the experience they are having? Or have golden ageism and the need to alert the wider society to what is happening to the university system, had the unfortunate consequence of conveying the message that students are being short-changed? Jennie Bristow's generation continues to receive a quality education. We need to keep saying so - even as we say that, unless we can limit the damage being done to us, the generation that succeeds hers will have a right to feel betrayed.

Sue Yates Information officer University of Sussex

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