Sir: J. R. Lucas's letter defending the payment of more money to Oxbridge than to other universities to educate undergraduates ("Animus against Oxbridge", 11 March) is counterproductive. When he says that "it does take more time to listen and comment on essays individually than to give lectures to large lecture halls", his implication is clear. But he reveals his own ignorance of what happens outside Oxbridge. Many departments in universities throughout the country have largely replaced formal lectures with small-group teaching, and the practice of discussing essays individually with students has long been widely established.
In any case, I have never understood why the Oxbridge system of tutors giving an off-the-cuff response to essays read aloud to them should be seen as preferable to the more widespread practice of tutors reading the essays themselves, making written comments on them, and then discussing them with students.
University of Stirling
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