Letter: Dangerous implications of the Dearing report

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The Independent Online
Sir: In the coverage of the Dearing report there has been a failure to assess its implications in anything other than financial terms. This is symptomatic of an era which could produce something like the Dearing report which assesses higher education as a matter of economics.

Quite simply, the report will mean the withering of liberal arts courses in the system as those students from low- and middle-income backgrounds who are brave enough to take on the massive debts will feel obliged to take those subjects which seem to promise immediate employment upon graduation: accountancy, business studies, media studies etc.

Higher education colleges and the smaller universities will therefore cut the arts departments due to falling demand and the liberal arts will become the preserve of the older universities, which are rarely on the cutting edge of intellectual enquiry these days but which have prestige and accumulated resources, and those students who can afford to attend them and to devote three years of their lives to non-vocational courses.

The cultural implications for a nation which prices its "working class" out of the liberal arts are dangerously divisive.

Dr JAMES H MILLS

Department of History

University of Edinburgh

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