Rapid Responses

Universities work

[Re: Release our business schools from the dead hand of state regulation, yesterday]

Professor Len Shackleton’s proposed “shake-up” of UK higher education is wrong on a number of fronts. For a start, he fails to recognise the success of our world class universities which, despite years of under-investment, continue to deliver for this nation. UK universities generate £59bn a year for the UK economy and, with just 1 per cent of the global population, the UK produces 7.9 per cent of the world’s research publications and 12 per cent of all citations. Secondly, it is far from a “national scandal” that universities maintain their arts and humanities departments. It is essential. At a time when students are being asked to pay record sums to study at university, it is crucial that institutions offer a broad range of courses – not just those that will turn the biggest profit. The UK has a thriving cultural economy that relies upon a steady supply of arts and humanities graduates. Thirdly, Shackelton is wrong to single out education companies like BPP as a model for future success. For-profit business schools and universities have been a disaster for students and taxpayers in the US. According to the US Education Trust, only one in five students at for-profit colleges complete a four-year course and 20 per cent of those who finish will default on their loans within three years. That is not the kind of “shake-up” I want to see in Britain.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU)

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