Waiting for Dearing will take too long

March 15, 1996

In her otherwise excellent article on the task facing Sir Ron Dearing (THES, March 8), Lucy Hodges misses an important distinction. While it may be true that the review has bought time for the Government to sort out its philosophical confusion about what higher education is for, and how, in the long run, it can be financed, it is not the case that Sir Ron's appointment has "brought peace in the universities until the next general election".

The universities are facing not war but bankruptcy. Expansion has been achieved by degrading the quality of student life, and by increasing staff workloads while eroding salaries. This is why the Association of University Teachers, together with the students, vice chancellors and principals are campaigning to explain the crisis provoked by the budget cuts and to persuade the Government that these must be reversed. That campaign will continue up to, during, and beyond the general election.

The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals has made it clear that its threat to impose a Pounds 300 "entry fee" will remain unless the next budget undoes the damage.

The situation is bad now. By the time Sir Ron reports, it will be far worse; unless those of us who care about the universities can persuade politicians that higher education is going to be a key election issue.

In that election, and after, we will be demanding a hearing, not "waiting for Dearing".

PHILIP BURGESS Department of psychology University of Dundee

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