MPs versus v-cs: university heavyweights parry blows

“The Select Committee fails to draw blood in its probe of the state of higher education. They threw a left, they threw a right, they threw the kitchen sink, but the MPs on the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee struggled to land a punch. They were in the ring with four higher education heavyweights for the first evidence session of a wide-ranging inquiry into universities and students, held in London last week. Committee chairman Phil Willis started carefully, asking the assembled vice-chancellors what matters most to students. Intimacy with tutors, they replied, or perhaps the chance to improve their job prospects. Our satisfaction levels are among the highest in the world and the National Student Survey (NSS) proves it, they said. Mr Willis was unimpressed and flicked a jab: ‘You paint a picture of a perfect world, where every university is wonderful and all students are happy. It is not the real world you are talking about.’ Geoffrey Crossick, warden of Goldsmiths, University of London, and representative of the 1994 Group representing smaller research-intensive universities, parried that ‘well over 80 per cent of students are satisfied with their education’. But Mr Willis hit back: ‘They don’t know anything else; they’ve nothing to compare it with’ …” (more)

[John Gill, THE, 5 February]

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