Talkback:High student-staff ratios

Readers respond to last week's special report on the stresses in higher education
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The Independent Online
From Professor Peter Watson Madam: Lesley Gerard's article raises interesting difficulties faced by state-funded universities as a result of the expansion of student numbers. It does not, however, address the fundamental dilemma of how to make universityeducation available to a still broader section of the population at a time when a multiplicity of demands on the taxpayer make it unlikely that higher education will receive more funding from that source.

Most students in this country still come from relatively better-off families and, in their turn, can expect to earn higher than average salaries. It is not unrealistic to expect them or their families to make a reasonable contribution to the cost of their university education. Various other simple measures, such as removing the inducement for students to live away from home and eliminating barriers discouraging students from moving from full- to part-time studies, would have the effect of making resources stretch further than at present. Such measures would need to be backed up by selective bursary schemes targeted at those in real need.

Britain is not alone in discovering that the taxpayer is unable to meet everyone's needs. We should lead the way in undertaking a carefully considered reform of higher education funding.

Yours faithfully, PETER WATSON Executive Pro-Vice Chancellor University of Buckingham

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