Letter: It's not how many go in, but how many come out

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your headline 'Britain still trailing in higher education stakes' (9 December) was misleading. It should have read 'Britain leads Europe in higher education'. As your education correspondent reported, 'the United Kingdom has more graduates each year than any other European Union country, because its highly selective system leads to low drop-out rates'.

As other countries have discovered to their cost, there is little value in allowing people to begin courses if they are not provided with enough support to give them a fair chance of completing them successfully. We have French and German students in this university who testify that British universities are much better than their own, because our staff have a commitment to providing such support.

Low drop-out rates result not only from selecting good students but also from giving those students personal attention when they get into difficulties, as they inevitably do because of the excellent performance expected of them. Our commitment to our students remains strong, in spite of the fact that the Government neither values nor understands our work; but our ability to provide individual attention has been constantly eroded by the Government's policy of demanding so- called 'efficiency gains' annually.

In this case 'efficiency' is measured only by the cost of educating each student, which is a laughably crude method. Our political masters do not understand that it could be highly efficient to increase our support for individuals, if that helped them to become established more quickly in socially-useful jobs.

Yours sincerely,


Head, Careers Service

Lancaster University


9 December