Sunday, 20 February 2011

Higher Fees for Undergraduate Degrees Will Lessen the Waste of Resources in Front Rank Universities

Some prestigious tertiary education sector institutions have long wished to be freed of undergraduate teaching.  The London School of Economics comes at once to mind.  These universities' prestige rests upon their research output, and their training of post-graduate researchers.  Their international profile comes from their draw of First Class Honours graduate students from the whole world, not from just English school-leavers with predicted A-level grades.  To look at the great universities as undergraduate institutions is a mistake.  Even Cambridge and Oxford, with their idiosyncratic undergraduate teaching provision and long traditions of  networking opportunities, are  distinguished  intellectually by the research statuses of their staff and departments.

Now that many jobs require an undergraduate degree rather than school-level education we should not be surprised that our great universities are even less interested in providing these qualifications than they were in educating the intake from which they draw their potential researchers  and teachers.  Most in need of a minimal qualification will go to less expensive and local providers.  Those who are brilliant but poor will still enter the great institutions  (whose  capacity to identify the clever rather than the merely qualified must be acknowledged.)  Certainly some who are well-to-do and socially demanding will  continue to form their  groupings in particular institutions in the more desirable parts of the country.

But if higher fees relieve pressure on universities whose resources are more in keeping with learning and research than with issuing certificates, that  will only be of benefit to us all.  And those with their hearts set on Oxbridge will find entry much less difficult at post-graduate level, the field thinned by real academic achievement and  real academic enthusiasm for their subject.


English Pensioner said...

My daughter is studying part time at LSE for her doctorate. I'm very impressed by the standards they set, and more to the point, when it comes to the social sciences, they don't appear to require the political correctness of the university where she took her first degree, just honest research, whatever the result. The only thing that I have against it is the large number of dictators who studied there in the past!

hatfield girl said...

And dictators' sons, it seems EP.

The University of London has always had close relationships with the Commonwealth and former colonial territories though; I don't think it should be held against it, or its constituent colleges; Rather, in its favour. After all it's hardly its fault that the ending of colonial rule has been a disaster for many former colonies. So much had to be done in such a rush after we were bankrupted by the second World War.