Education: Your Views

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The Independent Online
The traditional universities scored more goals than "new universities" in the recent university research assessment exercise, but their positioning at the top of the league may simply reflect their power in determining the rules of the game, theoretically oriented academic research being deemed precious compared with the more applied focus of the recently recruited "new" squads.

"New" universities tend to be closely aligned with a more local, community- focused audience, whereas a more universalistic perspective is claimed by the traditional universities for their research. Consensus remains elusive about the relative contribution of one type of research over the other in relation to our national social and economic well-being.

As reflective thinkers, perhaps we should all consider the proposition that such an epistemological duality afflicting higher education is being sustained by a deeper and unacknowledged commitment to a degenerative European social class structure. Are we really saying that "new" universities are to be less well resourced because of their involvement with "working- class" research, a proposition which would mean that to achieve viable levels of funding we must abandon our roots and become "middle class"?

It looks as though the university sector is beginning to mimic the early development of segregated secondary state schooling. The "comprehensive" ideal will not be realised in its university form until those in charge become more sympathetic to a differentiated conception of research.

Dr Chris Holligan

Faculty of Education

University of Paisley

Ayr, Scotland

Academics who challenge the link between education, training and economic performance (Is Education Vital? Education+, 23 January ) risk becoming obsessed with the knowledge element in education while ignoring the skills and experiences required as a preparation for work. Most employers regard academic qualifications as the essential requirement to gain an interview. But for an employee to "add value" and make a positive impact at work, a whole range of skills is also necessary: numeracy and literacy, of course, but also IT capability, communication, interpersonal skills and an awareness of commercial imperatives.

Roger Opie

Head of Educational Services

The Industrial Society

This consistently oversubscribed state infant school cannot take, on average, 40 children each year, and has long waiting lists. In spite of this, five years ago our budget was cut by pounds 15,000, which meant losing a teacher. Our budget share has been worth less each year for the last six years.

I have just been informed that we will be cut again. We will have to cut classroom resources such as books, class assistants and training opportunities for all teachers.

Where are the Conservatives' principles of rewarding successful schools which they regularly promised?

Mrs S Hobhouse

Headteacher

Coombe Hill Infants' School

Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Please send your letters to Education +, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL. Fax letters to 0171-293 2451; e-mail: letters@ independent.co.uk. We reserve the right to cut or amend readers' letters for reasons of length and clarity.

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