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Tuition fees would discourage students

On Sunday, Christ Church junior common room passed a motion voicing discontent at the idea of top-up and tuition fees.

The majority of students today are not rich: grants no longer cover even basic living expenses; the average textbook can cost pounds 20. Financial worries cause many students severe stress. To threaten potential students with a debt of pounds 20,000 by the time they leave university is to place an insurmountable barrier in the way of many who wish to learn. The thought of starting a professional life owing so much money would discourage many from going into higher education.

If we are to return to a system in which the right to education is based on financial rather than academic ability, then we must expect our industries and arts to suffer. In an age when the status of a country is based upon scientific and technological advance, we must make sure that our best minds are able to fulfil their potential, regardless of their financial background.

Many members of Christ Church's governing body have registered their support for this protest. This is an issue about which those in all areas of education are concerned.

Kate Heard,

President, Christ Church JCR

Psychology for the rounded person

Paul Rickard (letters, 7 November) is indeed being naive in his understanding of the Psychology degree.

Psychology is the scientific study of human mind and behaviour. A first degree in Psychology does not make you a "psychologist" in the professional sense. Postgraduate training and qualifications in, for example, clinical, educational, occupational and academic psychology are necessary to move into the profession.

Fortunately, this does not prevent thousands of young people choosing Psychology as a degree, which means the A-level entry requirement is very high (AAB in this department).

A moment's examination of the degree indicates what a good preparation it is for the wider world. Leaving aside the obvious advantages of a deeper understanding of human behaviour, our degree provides training in scientific method (to students who often come from an arts background), the treatment and handling of quantitative data, and computer skills of a high order. In addition we include courses in group working and communication, and assessment samples a wide range of abilities including oral presentations, group and individual empirical projects and written dissertations.

Psychology may be unique in turning out graduates who are highly literate and numerate, are thoroughly familiar with information technology and can call upon the rigour of a scientific approach to problems. It has always been the case that the majority of our students do not become psychologists in the vocational sense. (In this way our students are no different from graduates in, say, History, who do not become historians.) Far from being a source of regret, this is a source of considerable satisfaction.

Peter Lloyd

Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology

University of Manchester

Not so well paid

I was aghast to open your education section this week to discover I was supposed to be paid pounds 21,519 as a librarian in the old university sector. Perhaps you missed out the word "senior"?

Even after a first degree, at least a year's traineeship and then a Master's degree, all newly qualified librarians start at the bottom of the academic related pay scale on pounds 14,317. We do not get a third more than researchers with doctorates, and I am embarrassed that anybody might think that we did after reading your report.

Of course, the figure above only relates to old universities. My colleagues in new universities are paid even more poorly.

Isobel Stark,

University of Bath Library

Number games

I wonder how many of your readers are aware of the statistical game played by the DFEE in producing their end of Key Stage 2 SAT results. The percentage of children achieving level 4 in English, maths and science has been calculated to include those children unavoidably absent on the day of the test. The net result of this in my school is to depress our results by an average of 6.6 per cent.

While expressing sympathy to our school's position, an officer at the DFEE has stated that the reason that this has been done is to ensure that in the small number of schools with high truancy rates, the results are not raised artificially.

Does this, then, justify depressing the SAT results at Key Stage 2 for the majority of schools in the country?

Peter Candlin

Headteacher, St Paul's primary school

St Leonards-on-Sea

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