LETTER:Results of the Oxbridge tutorial system

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The Independent Online
From Dr Chris Husbands

Sir: Like John Ashworth ("An enduring blue privilege", June 13), I am a product of the Oxbridge tutorial system. I now work in a considerably less lavishly funded university which has always grounded its teaching approaches on other principles. The Oxbridge tutorial system is not simply inefficient and expensive; it is also narrow and prevents imaginative or innovative approaches to the development of curriculum and learning methods in higher education.

The tutorial system places a premium on the development of a relatively narrow range of higher order skills - those framing and developing an argument - but it does so at the expense of neglecting other, equally demanding and equally significant, transferable skills. I went through three years of a Cambridge degree never having participated in a group discussion or a seminar, and never having work collaboratively. The students I now teach are postgraduates, some of them with Oxbridge degrees and some with degrees from universities with considerably more imaginative approaches to course design and delivery and considerably more flexible approaches to student learning.

I find, I am afraid, little evidence that the preferentially-funded, and, for the later 20th century, narrowly conceived, Oxbridge degrees really do deliver higher quality graduates equipped with a range of cognitive and organisational skills.

Yours faithfully,

CHRIS HUSBANDS

Senior Lecturer in Education

University of East Anglia

Norwich

14 June

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