Taking on Blackstone

November 7, 1997

BARONESS Blackstone (THES, October 24) points out with some justification that quality rather than quantity is the key issue in the education of our science and engineering students.

However, I hope that she recognises that the widespread introduction of four-year chemistry and physics masters courses, while addressing the issue of quality, leads necessarily to an increase in the number of students at (rather than entering) universities.

Taken to its logical conclusion, her proposition that total numbers should remain stable or fall implies a reduction in annualstudent intake and a corresponding loss of opportunity for young people. If this is government policy, it is to be regretted. An increase in student places specifically linked to four-year courses would produce future Nobel prizewinners.

Laurence M. Peter Professor of physical chemistry and head of the school of chemistry University of Bath

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