The eighties' rise of the good degree

July 3, 1998

SO THE Confederation of British Industry believes employers would be "worried and confused" if degree classifications were replaced by something more informative.

It is scarcely reassuring that the sector of our national life which is constantly held up to the teaching profession as a model of enterprise, flexibility of attitude and readiness to change, is flummoxed by a scarcely earth-shattering proposal for reform, which would surely work to their advantage. And we are asked to take them seriously.

Higher education still clings to the notion that industry embodies the attitudes we should follow. One Oxford don, on page 3 of the June 26 issue, defends the colleges as being "in tune with the most modern business and government thinking". So that's all right!

Have educators no confidence in their own practices any more? Some years ago there was a report that a number of principals of education institutions (I believe they were secondary schools, but what matter?) had called in consultants from industry to advise on the way they ran themselves.

The industrialists concluded that schools were strong in what today we would call "human resource management" (that is, they knew on the whole how to handle their staff and students) and in general had nothing very much at all to learn from the industrial sector. Why do we persist in believing the opposite?

James Muckle Special lecturer in Russian studies Department of Slavonic studies University of Nottingham

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