I write following your article (Education+, 6 November) "Who wants to do an HND when you can do a degree?" As principal of Middlesbrough College, to which you refer in the context of the University of Teesside partnership, I would like to add to the discussion on college-based certificate and diploma work. First, though, a word of correction - we do not offer an HND in beauty therapy, though we do have plans to offer this in the future.
More importantly, our HND enrolment "franchised" from the University of Teesside is buoyant with enrolments, rising to an all-time high in September of this year. The programmes are successful with students moving on to the HND from the level three studies they undertake in this tertiary college. The HND course provides a route on to degree work at Teesside and other universities or employment in our "gritty industrial conurbation" and elsewhere.
Some of this success is due to our proximity to the University of Teesside's main campus one mile away and good provision for student accommodation, both factors which your article correctly identifies as critical elements in the successful higher education experience for students.
Contrary to your article last week, Edexcel's research shows that HNDs are valued by employers and students. As the sole providers of HNDs, we maintain a constant dialogue with employers in the development of these programmes to ensure that they meet industry's needs. A study we recently completed shows that employers rate HNDs alongside first degrees and MBAs for skills delivery and that they score above average on "employability of the award-holder".
HND/Cs are seen as being particularly appropriate for entering associate professional occupations such as engineering - an area where there is a recognised skills gap. In the international arena, strong economies which are skills-based hold qualifications such as the HND in high regard.
Sir Ron Dearing and the Government have acknowledged the need for highly skilled technicians in the workforce. The proposed expansion of sub-degree level education will ensure a continued role for HND/Cs, both as an intermediate degree enabling access to further study and as a route into employment.
Chairman of Edexcel Foundation
cheap comments about my legal skills
Gareth Williams (Education+,Your Views, 6 November) is correct in supposing that he is the academic to whom I referred in my recent address to Convocation, but incorrect (and exceedingly foolish) to suppose that I did not have the benefit of his text. I did, and I quoted from it extensively, including the particular passage he quotes in his letter, which I described as "as offensive as it is inaccurate".
It would have been more than mere courtesy, but good sense, for Professor Williams to have sought a copy of my text before he accused me of criticising on the basis of inadequate information and making cheap and unworthy comments about my legal skills.
Professor Graham Zellick
University of London
A special tax code for graduates?
There is a problem with the current proposals for extra fees in higher education. Students don't have the cash and their parents may be disinclined or unable to help. A financial argument is made, that university graduates benefit in the long run by attracting higher wages. If all graduates had a special "graduate" tax code, the benefits of these higher wages could be recouped through taxation of those who had received the privilege of higher education. These benefits are likely to be lifelong and the duration of the special coding would need examination. The principle of government investing in the student is maintained, with the promise of recouping the investment if the selection procedure is appropriate. There is no confrontation with demands for money before the benefit to the student is realised. Can't it be that simple?
David de Berker
more hours for schools - and MPs
It might seem ridiculous and the height of folly to suggest at a time of acute shortages of mathematics and science teachers in particular, and of falling recruitment numbers to the teaching profession generally, that the school day is too short and school holidays are too long. But if academic attainment standards are to rise, an extra week or fortnight a year would appear obvious solutions (and also help to reduce some of the juvenile crime that occurs at those times). To ask the Government to introduce such measures, however, is perhaps naive when the autumn parliamentary session begins so late after the long summer break that there is no government time left for discussion in the House of Commons of the Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill. Why should MPs and teachers (and lecturers) be the exception to the general trend of most professions working long hours with short holidays?
Start teaching when children are ready
In my experience, children learn best when they are good and ready. It is counter-productive to begin formal work when perhaps only 20 per cent of the pupils are ready. Such an approach condemns the majority to frustration and to feelings of failure. Not only does it generate a massive and costly remedial problem, it is bad for the morale of the children and may well make many of them feel that school is not for them.
However, if we delay formal work for 12 months until perhaps, 80 per cent of the children are ready, then most of the children will make better progress. Since progress feeds on success, their learning will be much more enjoyable, morale will be high and the children will go from strength to strength. The remaining children will be those with real learning difficulties. Because these children will be relatively few in number, the help which they receive can be well-resourced and carefully targeted.
Of course, the pressure to begin early is immense. Seeing education as a race, some parents are keen to push their children to gain early advantage. Also, it is politically correct to try to help "disadvantaged" children before their poor start in life has become a handicap.
However, the view of education as a race condemns everyone to failure eventually. Is this what we have schools and universities for? We need to examine our aims and objectives carefully if we are to develop an education system which will serve our needs in the 21st century.
Sensing the public mood, the Government is trying to be all things to all people, Yet, if the Government is really interested in education, education and education, then it needs to think, think and think!
W D McKaigue
Thornton Hough, Wirral