Taking some stick

September 15, 2000

You have often used quotes from me as a stick with which to beat others who use oversimplified performance indicators. You should now apply this stick to yourself.

The article "Student numbers falling" (THES, September 1) makes predictions about patterns of student numbers in part-time higher education based on only two successive years. But part-time students typically study for four or more years, so to work out trends you need to look at applications for at least four years.

In the case of Birkbeck, last year was an exceptionally good year in terms of inquiries, applications and enrolments. This year's figures are almost identical, so our data do not support your headline. In future, please look at more than two successive years of applications or enrolments.

Tim O'Shea Master, Birkbeck College, London

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