Letters – 25 April 2019

四月 25, 2019

More or less, only graduates should pay

In his article on the longitudinal education outcomes project, which he initiated when he was minister of state for universities and science (“You are what you earn?”, Feature, 11 April), Lord Willetts says that he does not support a graduate tax because “one of the key problems with such a tax is that high earners would face paying far more than the actual cost of their education”.

“While it is right to expect graduates to pay back for their own higher education,” Willetts says, he does not understand why high-earning graduates “have a greater obligation than the rest of the population to pay for other [lower-earning] graduates’ higher education”.

In arguing this, Willetts misses that if higher-earning graduates do not pay more than their own education cost to compensate for other lower-earning graduates who will pay less than their education cost, someone else has got to pick up this shortfall; and this someone else can only be those taxpayers generally who do not go on to higher education. Does Willetts think it is right that the still slight majority of the population who do not go on to higher education at all should pay taxes for the higher education of that minority of the population who do go into higher education?

High-earning graduates – and Willetts mentions people who are earning in excess of £100,000 a year within 10 years of leaving university – should pay more than the actual cost of their higher education because it is presumably only as a result of their higher education that they are now high earners. But even if this is not the case, people who do not go to university at all should not be asked to pay for the education of those high- or low-earning graduates who are lucky enough to do so.

Kenneth Smith
Reader in criminology and sociology
Bucks New University

Don’t rush doctors

The news story “Kenya short 
of ‘impossible’ target for all lecturers to get PhDs” quotes Tristan McCowan, professor of international education at UCL, saying that it will be impossible for Kenyan universities to hit a target of having all their lecturers in possession of a doctorate by October.

McCowan is absolutely right. It might take at least a generation for PhDs to become the norm for lecturers in Kenyan universities and other institutions in most of Africa. Quality is paramount; there is no point having a quick PhD drive unless the quality expected of a PhD can be maintained, a situation that needs time and adequate support to develop.

Collaborative and joint PhD programmes, where possible with institutions that have the experience, would be a way forward, and some African universities are already pursuing this. This is a better move than either sending staff to complete three-year PhDs abroad or trying to develop a PhD system with few staff with the relevant qualifications or experience to accomplish this.

Prof. Uduku
Via timeshighereducation.com

IT – get the lead out

Peter Barry, in his opinion article “Technical difficulties” (11 April), writes of his exasperation with IT “solutions” imposed from on high to make things better for lecturers that actually end up making their job more difficult.

I like innovating because, after more than 30 years of teaching, taking advantage of new technology is my way of staying fresh, not becoming stale. Like Barry, however, I am enormously frustrated by unnecessary technical updates that add nothing and create endless problems.

I had been planning to mark a batch of essays on my laptop, as I have done for several years now, but had been suffering problems with both hardware and software. Then I had a brainwave. I printed out the essays, and I am marking them with a pencil. It’s really simple and uncomplicated, little can go wrong, and I suspect that the students might actually like getting their feedback in this way.

Adam Ozanne
Via timeshighereducation.com



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