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Overseas students revolt

Re: Your article "Warming up the Welcome", (EDUCATION, 27 May). Apart from foreign students feeling uncomfortable with British immigration practices, they also feel cheated that, after paying high fees, they are not normally being taught by academics with high professional status. Their growing perception is that they are taught by people with low lecturer status and such a view is increasingly becoming vocal in status-conscious Asian, African and South American countries, our greatest overseas student markets. Indeed, some students have felt much disquiet in not having met or been taught by anyone of professorial rank in a British university; they wish they had been aware of this situation and gone to North America instead. Their job references from mere university lecturers or senior lecturers do not carry enough weight internationally in a competitive world job market.

DR CORNEL DACOSTA

Orpington, Kent

You're never too old

I was astounded to read that a recruitment officer had advised Jill Cowley that she had never been able to help anyone over 35 with a career change. ("Personally Speaking", EDUCATION, 27 May) I have changed careers a number of times. My last change was seven years ago, after spending 16 years as a chemistry teacher. By this time I was in my late forties. I drew up a list of what I considered to be transferable skills alongside the usual qualifications and experience. It was then a matter of examining what jobs were available and matching my skill-set with their requirements. Yes, I did receive some brusque rejections and some agencies just laughed when I told them my age. However, I persisted and found a job in the IT industry. I now manage a team of nine and command a salary well in excess of what I could earn as a teacher.

Teachers have many of the skills needed in industry. All are adept at organising people, facilities and materials, preparing and delivering presentations and negotiating with difficult customers. As long as you have what they want, age is not a barrier, but being self-defeating is.

TREVOR WILLIAMS

Formby, Liverpool

Time for phonetic spelling

The teaching of phonics ("The sound and fury of the phonic boom", EDUCATION, 27 May) could become an effective means of teaching literacy, were it not for the large number of unphonetically spelt English words. There is a simple solution to this problem: modernise English spelling. As long as we insist on retaining the profusion of antiquated, cumbersome and highly contradictory spellings we now have, confident literacy will remain beyond the scope of many children; and the shameful extent of adult illiteracy which Sir Claus Moser reported recently will remain with us for ever.

MASHA BELL

Wareham, Dorset

Please send your letters to: Wendy Berliner, Editor, EDUCATION, `The Independent', One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL (Include a day-time phone number). Fax letters to: 0171 293 2451. e-mail: educ@independent. co.uk. Letters may be edited for length and clarity

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