Good and bad policies
Every week seems to produce new ideas and thoughts regarding higher education. There’s nothing wrong idea generation and the consequent discussion and analysis per se. After all, the best ideas can come from non-judgemental brain-storming.
But, oh but, there are some strange ones. Here’s a sample from this past week –
- Uk “University courses are to be tagged with their drop-out rates, graduates’ future earnings and the number of contact hours students can expect with tutors” becasue this is an “indication of quality” of the courses. Are these really quality indicators of the quality of a course? We all know that drop-out rates have a myriad of reasons which often have little to do with the course itself. Future earnings – so Higher Dips in Education are to be a low quality course? Contact hours – what’s the reasoning here – is more better or worse, from what starting point and in what way might more or less contact time help or hinder. At what point does more spill over into too much such that students are prevented from acquiring independent-learner skills? What in all this is the joy of learning a subject matter that appeals to something intrinsic in the student? Where is the in-depth engagement with a subject matter that allows for enhanced enjoyment and fulfillment?
- “DNA swab for your job”. To take up a job at the University of Akron in the USA the board of trustees require you to submit to not only a criminal background check but you also are required to hand over a sample of your DNA. In my book, that’s just ridiculously invasive. Where is the right to privacy of one’s own person. One lecturer has resigned in protest. An interesting comment asks whether the board of trustees will be submitting their DNA samples.
- “State needs Catholic University”. The President of Mary “I” College of Education in Limerick is calling for a specifically catholic university in the country. I have never met and I know little about the president of this college so I’ll not say much apart from wondering what exactlya strong religious ethos can do for an educational institution.
Frtunately all is not quite so negative. There are efforts to highlight the dangers of negative practices –
- IFUT are highlighting the dangers of market-based funding. Their seminar during the week seems to have many international guests saying lots of meaningful, interesting and important things on the theme. A quote from Mike Jennings (IFUT General Secretary): “Irish universities must not become the pawns of market forces and private speculators, who view education as just another source of profit and their students like customers in a supermarket”. Last word goes to Jens Vraa-Jensen of Education International (EI): “The basic raison d’être for any private enterprise is to create profit for its owners. The purpose of a university is not profit but to spend money in the most appropriate way on teaching students and conducting research to develop the intellectual capacity of future generations and provide the society with new knowledge for future development and welfare”. Well said!
And on that note, I’m off to spend the afternoon / evening working on my PhD.