Regulator condemns Woodhead for attack on degrees

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The Independent Online

The head of the university standards regulator has criticised Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools, for attacking many degrees as "vacuous".

The head of the university standards regulator has criticised Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools, for attacking many degrees as "vacuous".

Mr Woodhead, who resigned earlier this month to work for The Daily Telegraph, claimed courses such as media studies and golf course management were of poor quality and unsuited to the world of work.

But John Randall, the head of the Quality Assurance Agency for higher education, yesterday accused Mr Woodhead of making "cheap gibes" at the expense of students. Mr Woodhead's comments were "ill-informed, ill-considered and unconstructive," he told an audience of vice-chancellors.

"It was ill-informed because it did not rest on any hard evidence. It was ill-considered because it took a narrow view of excellence, implying that only traditional academic subjects were worthy of study at degree level," Mr Randall said.

"It is easy if you want to make a cheap gibe to talk about golf course management degrees. I have never heard anybody make cheap gibes about agriculture and similar subjects. What both are concerned about is the way land is managed.

"It is not sensible to dismiss glibly whole fields of academic endeavour as the chief inspector has done. There can be academic rigour in new and practical fields of study, just as there can be weaknesses in standards in conventional academic disciplines."

Mr Randall made his comments as he launched national standards for bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees at a conference in London sponsored by The Independent. Many universities would have to improve post-graduate courses to meet the new standards, he warned.

But Oxford and Cambridge MAs, which are awarded automatically and require no extra study, have been saved because they are "not academic qualifications".

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