new vision for Universities?

Lord Mandelson has laid out his vision for the future of English universities, stressing the “customer experience” of students and ties with business.

Speaking on Radio 4, he said that students should be provided with more information and also promised a review of University funding. Lord Mandelson said social mobility must be promoted more and universities were not “factories for workers”. But he said universities also could not be islands or ivory towers and had a crucial role in the country’s economic prosperity.

From a personal perspective, I feel that Higher Education is something that makes or breaks a country. Get it right and you have a flow of well qualified young people into industry. Get it wrong, and you have a glut of young people with poor degrees in irrelevant subjects.

Maybe I weas naive, but when I started my degree, I thought that universities were about students. After three years, I changed my mind considerably. They are about lecturers and researchers. International students are quite well looked after, as they provide quite a bit of income. Students are almost treated as annoying distractions from research, even though they pay the wages. There are too many Ivory towers in Academia. While Universities have become a business, they have not adopted any kind of customer focus.

You really do not get your money worth from University. The contact time with lecturers is minimal, the quality of teaching is just not there, and the only evidence of investment is in big swanky new buildings. The emphasis is all wrong. It feels like one big sausage factory, complete with a Vice-Chancellor turning the handle. For some reason the Government seem obsessed with the amount of people leaving University. Quantity over quality. People feel pressured into going to Uni, or go because they dont know what else to do. Does the country really need thousands of media graduates, when we are short of plumbers and electricians?

It is all too easy as well to drift through University and come out with a below par grade. Too many people go to Uni to ‘grow up’, which is very well but you’re there to learn, first and foremost. If you can’t do that then you shouldn’t be there. Also, I have seen far too many well-off people breezing through Uni, when there are probably countless poorer people who would love the opportunity to further themselves.

My solution would be to limit the amount of places at University, provide a fairer level playing field and allow people to progress based on their talent, enthusiasm and potential, not their wealth. Universities also need to be taken to task, too often they are a law unto themselves with regard to policy and spending.

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