Thursday, 9 June 2011

My quote of the day on high cost higher education

My 'quote of the day' is from this Daily Telegraph rant about higher education because what is happening at the moment makes me want to rant about it, too.

A couple of years ago, I was involved in a consultation about a University chaplaincy (having once been one myself) and I asked one of the staff members there what they felt, overall, was the ethos and purpose of the institution. Wearily, they replied to the effect that it was basically an education industry selling people degrees.
Q Didn’t Disraeli say university should be a place of light, of liberty, and of learning?
A Unfortunately, Disraeli belongs to a period of history before 1900, which falls outside our strategic-skills, results-oriented, business-friendly, revenue-spinning definition of what higher education is for. Can I recommend a course in Baking Technology? It really does take the biscuit. All major credit cards accepted.

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  1. For obvious reasons I can’t put a name to what follows!

    I have just spent the last month marking undergrad papers and on one of the modules I marked there was a complaint from some students that they felt they had been under-marked. My marks had been agreed by the second marker so I wasn’t overly worried about my abilities, though I encouraged several of the students who e-mailed me, querying their mark, to request their essays be remarked. The result was the whole module’s assessed essays were remarked and there was about eight of the 60 papers had their marks increased by more than 5%.

    When I was filling in the spreadsheet that tallies up the marks I noticed something very curious. Only assessed essays that fell in the 2:ii band (50-59%) had had their marks adjusted to fall into the 2:i (60-69%) band. Now if my marking was dodgy there would have been a consistent change of marks across all classes, but my First, 2:i and 3rd essay grades remained within the 5% grace of difference of opinion – many were not even changed or only changed by 1 or 2%. Only essays graded as 2:ii’s were remarked to make them into 2:i’s. This is grade inflation – a common enough practice nowadays at universities. To be frank I was rather appalled at the standard of many of the essays. They were second year students at a Russell Group university – I did my first degree at a Polytechnic in the early 90s and produced better quality work (I know this wasn’t the same for all students in my year, as I produced the best degree of my year, still I excepted better from students who, in the main, had had secondary education I would have given my high teeth for!).

    What was interesting in the above is that the students almost regarded themselves as consumers and saw it as their right that they should get 2:i grades. The university itself complied with this because 2:i’s are what employers want and moreover it looks ‘better’ (tho’ that is a matter of opinion) if the bulk of students get 2:i’s.

    This raises the question: What is our education system for? What are we producing? Young people who are able to think for themselves, or petulant individuals who think they can buy education?

  2. I'd like to remain anonymous as well, to point out that the above comment, made by someone who claims to have been awarded the best degree of his/her year, contains some real howlers. The writer puts apostophes for plurals (2:1's) several times. He/she also writes 'high teeth', for 'eye teeth' showing that he/she uses this this construction withour the least idea what it means. I ignore 'excepted' for 'expected' because it is a typo, and we can all make these.
    If this is the sort of literacy we get from university teachers then it's no wonder that the students perform so poorly.