Letter: Degrees of uselessness

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The Independent Online
Sir: Those institutions which are thought likely to resist "fiercely" the plan to set national standards for degrees (report, 20 September) at next week's meeting of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals are living in academic cloud-cuckoo-land.

As far as employers are concerned, the situation is farcical and doing no service to the graduates these institutions are pouring on to the job market. Having 10 days ago placed a minute advertisement in a national newspaper for an "assistant editor" which has so far elicited more than 400 replies, I speak from exhausted experience.

A surprisingly large number of applicants appear to have achieved a 2:1 or above. Checking against A-level results, where there is presumed to be something of a national standard, there is a remarkable disparity between the apparent academic achievements of students from "older" and "newer" universities relative to their grades at A-level. Checking A-level results therefore becomes an automatic part of the selection process.

The committee needs to address seriously not only the question of standards but the whole issue of marketing the tidal wave of graduates. They should explain to employers (and the interested public) what on earth all these media studies-type of degrees are supposed to be, and indeed who and where all these new universities are. A 2:1 from the University of Central England may have great value but if the applicant, and no one of my acquaintance in distant London, can tell me where it is located, I am perplexed.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Platt


Professional and Business

Information PLC

London, EC1

20 September