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October 18, 2010


Philip Walker

I don't see why letting student preferences hold sway is inconsistent with your proposals, with which I would agree. Specifically, your first and second ones in fact uphold and entrench the priority of student preference.


The notion that education can be run on the principle of consumer sovereignty is ridiculous. We might like to believe that the customer is always right but students, by definition, can’t be. Introducing the market into education and 'putting students in charge', as Browne advocates, risks standing the student/lecturer relationship on its head, so disregarding expertise, knowledge and learning, and replacing it with the unending quest for the Holy Grail of value for money.


I'll go straight to Bruno Frey's #5 (Chris does not have a number 5) which is about student entitlement, expectation and fees. When students become customers, their relationship with a university changes. They do not act as club members, tolerant that manners are brusque but that the dish and fellow diners are delightful; they get annoyed that they paid three star rate expecting four star service (for which confusion many universities are guilty).

Paying to attend a UK university (which is the norm for all but a few exceptional scholars from faraway, poorer nations) gives the student a foot in the door to a degree; the aperture is opened by diligence and intelligence.

Re Francis Sedgemore on teaching: Universities have demanded a basic teaching qualification for those who conduct lectures for 10 years or more. Any training requirement for PhD researchers (who provide much of the support in class exercises or in online Blackboard discussions) would be counterproductive. If you were training PhD researchers as junior teachers, you would give them the role that they perform today.


Rab, it is all about calculus. It is possible for a student to attain entrance grades for science or engineering course admission without understanding calculus. That is a bit of a foul up that does not serve the student well. No university student in a tech subject can get away with saying that calculus was a fail but that Newtonian mechanics was hot after the first year.

The necessity to understand calculus is not a whim imposed by lecturers; it is something that students have to understand how to use, and students have to be quick during lectures. The ability to use calculus or those funky thermodynamic equations, which a smart lecturer can turn into something new, is student enlightenment.

Perhaps, Rab, you do not have the equivalent to calculus.

John H

how else do you explain the economic success of Oxford classics graduates?

I suppose it's possible there could be some correlation between a classical education on the one hand and parental/inherited wealth (and access to private education with its attendant advantages) on the other... ;-)


Hi Charlieman
Understand calculus? I take a lap of honour around the campus if I can get my students to read.


there are a lot of publically available instances of what a PPE degree is worth....christ even Healey had a PPE degree but did not have a clue about economics. And he was placed in a poisition of real power. And let us not even think about Brown, Balls and Blair - the 3 B's of 21st century Britain.

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