Your View: A Trojan horse

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The Independent Online
Ted Wragg [Education+, 9 January] is right to point out the damage that the national curriculum has done to schools by enabling the Government to "control what is taught" by the imposition of "state-approved knowledge", and to warn that Gillian Shephard's proposal for a national curriculum for teacher education in universities is an assault on academic freedom.

The Robbins Committee, which was set up by a Conservative government, affirmed in 1963 that freedom of universities from governmental control was "an essential constituent of a free society". Universities' freedom to control "the content of curricula and the maintenance of standards" was fundamental since the imposition of central control necessarily carries the "danger of interference on political grounds".

Mrs Shephard has already made it clear that the Government intends to use its new powers to exert ideological control over university departments of education. She is reported to have said "There needs to be more prescription, and we have the levers to make that happen".

Even more worrying is the possibility that the teacher training curriculum is to be used as a Trojan horse to penetrate the university sector as a whole, bringing with it centralised control over a wide range of curricula and teaching methods. The new higher level GNVQs, shortly to be on offer to higher education institutions, will be controlled by the Government, rather than by the universities, and the new single quality agency scheduled to take over from the Higher Education Quality Council this year is another sign of the growing encroachment of central government on what were the preserves of an independent higher education sector.

Mary Tasker

David Packham,

University of Bath