Letter: Raising fees will lower standards

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The Independent Online
Letter: Raising fees will lower standards

Sir: One aspect of the institution of university fees (report, 24 July) that has not been mentioned is the downward pressure it will exert on academic standards.

The Australian experience is that students who have paid for their studies have a far stronger tendency to demand the requisite pass or grade, on the basis that they have paid for it and therefore have a right to it, regardless of whether they have earned it by meeting the requirements of the course. The problem is intensified by business-oriented university administrators, worried about the effect that "tough" courses might have on student enrolments, putting pressure on academics to water down the rigour of their courses and pass more students.

There is also a greater tendency for students, administrators and, it appears, governments to blame failure on the academic rather than the student and demand ever-greater spoon-feeding (termed "a higher quality of teaching") of students who should have been weaned from such dependency on leaving school. Academics who stand out in defence of quality against the pressure of both students and administration, find themselves coming under pressures which threaten their performance-related pay increases and their chances of promotion.

With the fast-changing, more mercenary climate in higher education, it is time to restate strongly to everyone involved that admittance to higher education is the granting of a chance to participate, not a cast-iron guarantee of success.

PAUL EDWARDS

Exeter

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