Sir: Before applying for a chair in media studies, Niall Ferguson might well consider the fact that the cliche which makes good copy can serve to obfuscate as well as illuminate. I know of no one who has been an external examiner at Anglia or De Montfort universities who would describe them as "Disneyland universities", or would suggest that they do not seek to maintain academic standards.
Mr Ferguson also belabours courses in traditional subjects. The test of whether a subject, be it media studies or mathematics, is taught to degree standards lies in the rigour, coherence and intellectual challenge of the course, rather than the material studied. There is nothing inherently wrong with courses of study related to employment in communications or management, and courses related to employment n law, medicine and the church seem to have been well regarded for some centuries.
There are serious matters for concern in British higher education. The maintenance of standards in a time of declining resources requires continuing attention. The question of what constitutes the basic requirements and attainment for the award of a degree certainly needs rational consideration. Unfortunately, the mere presentation of irrational prejudice does not serve to advance rational argument about the real issues.
Assistant National Secretary
AUCL: Association of University and College Lecturers
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