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From Mathew Seward

Madam: One of the main problems facing student unions such as those at Hull and Liverpool John Moores in opposing the introduction of semesters ("Semesters? Give us a break," 18 May) is that plans are often presented to students by the university authorities as a fait accompli, with little consultation. This was certainly the case at Hull when proposals were first put to elected union representatives almost two years ago.

Semesterisation is, however, the wrong target. Semesters are being introduced to facilitate modularisation of courses, which in turn is necessary for the introduction of a system of course credits. Under this system, credits are given for each module completed; these can then be saved up and exchanged, like petrol tokens, for a certificate, diploma or degree depending on the number collected. This supposedly enables students to wander in and out of university picking up credits on a seemingly ad hoc basis, giving more flexibility.

If universities are to be seen as mere degree factories, with an academic year structured purely to take account of the most efficient and productive methods of tuition and qualifying, then this system is fine.

But if one believes universities are about more than that, about providing a transition to adult life and the real world for young people, for them to learn to be self-sufficient while expanding their social, cultural and sporting horizons, then this system presents a serious threat.

Yours faithfully,

MATTHEW SEWARD

Former Chair of Council

Hull University Union, 1994

London

From Janet Clarke

Madam: I have just read Fran Abrams's article "NUT plans to curb militants after conference hijack" (May 15). These plans appear to emanate from one man, Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

Mr McAvoy and his supporters on the executive are not the NUT. The NUT is the mass membership. I have been a union member for 27 years. I am not a member of any militant faction, but I do see many teachers and children forced to work in overcrowded classrooms and it is deplorable. I elected my conference delegates democratically and they voted in accordance with the wishes of their membership.

Mr McAvoy appears to be out of touch with grass-roots members and living in some kind of fantasy land in which he sees himself as the all- powerful ruler who cannot take any form of dissent from his subjects. All the measures outlined appear to be designed to sabotage the class size ballot and to misinform union members about happenings at conference.

Yours sincerely,

JANET CLARKE

Isleworth,

Middlesex

From Ray Canekeratne

Madam: Your correspondent Jennifer Chew (Talkback, 18 May) seems to confuse the objectives of two types of test: one is for achievement and the other capability.

If there is a discrepancy in results, it is most probably due to the previous education of the child tested.

Yours sincerely,

RAY CANEKERATNE

Derby

From Robert Brew

Madam: I wonder how many children have failed the new tests for 11-year- olds for giving the right answer.

In one of the illustrated questions it asks what an animal, not the species, has to do to survive.

One of the choices given as correct is sex. This is not true. One answer not given is defending oneself against predators.

Perhaps Conservative ministers have had a greater influence on these tests than we realise.

Yours sincerely,

ROBERT BREW

Worthing

Sussex

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