‘What about the common good?’ Chaplains respond to White Paper

Forty university chaplains have signed a letter criticising the coalition government’s White Paper for seeing higher education in “highly individual” terms.

September 28, 2011

The chaplains say in the message - sent to church newspapers such as The Tablet and Baptist Times – that they are “deeply concerned” about the consequences of the reforms and “deeply regret” the omission from the White Paper of the “wider and more fundamental aims for higher education”.

“University education is said to bring economic benefits, equip individuals for work and raise their expected income. Whilst these aims are good in themselves, in our understanding higher education includes much more,” the letter states.

“Universities also serve the common good - they help to build societies where there is greater mutual respect, understanding and tolerance, they deepen understanding and question commonly held assumptions. The university experience is about self discovery and personal formation as much as it is about improving employment prospects.”

In particular the Christian chaplains, from a cross-section of different universities including research-intensives and teaching-led institutions, draw attention to the proposals to free up number controls for high-achieving A-level students.

“High performing students are likely to be drawn into a small number of universities creating a two-tier system of higher education,” they write.

“University education has great potential to offer new opportunities to all and we are seriously concerned about issues of social justice and fair access which could arise from the new system.”

They also warn the proposals for student support under the system of higher fees were “not properly safeguarded and will be all too easily eroded by the pressure to cut costs”.

It is understood the chaplains – who have acted independently of their institutions – decided to produce and sign a letter following discussions about the issue at a conference held in the last few weeks.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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