Andrew Adonis and an elitist attitude towards former polytechnics | Letters

11 Oct

Lord Adonis (Strip former polytechnics of university status, says ex-minister, 11 October) shows a staggering ignorance of the status and quality of many of those institutions. If we were to choose to cull degree-awarding institutions from metrics based on their actual performance rather than the prejudice and ignorance he shares with so many of his fellow ex-Oxbridge members of the establishment, some of the traditional universities would be in line for the chop. Even the “greatest” universities at the top of the pecking order are not universally excellent and have some departments that would struggle academically in competition with the former polytechnics. Would he suggest Oxford, for example, should be closed because some departments are under-performing? I think not. Do the universities need reform? Yes, but based on evidence not prejudice.
Dr John Cookson
Bournemouth

As a graduate of Teesside Polytechnic in the late 1970s I’m not surprised that Andrew Adonis wants to reintroduce the division between polys for the plebs and universities for the likes of him. I got a decent education at Teesside, not only in my degree subject of history and politics but also in extracurricular activities like public speaking, leaflet-writing and organising demonstrations. I suspect it’s this that particularly concerns him.
Keith Flett
London

During a long university career, my most difficult job was leading the development and implementation of an institution-wide policy on plagiarism. So your correspondents’ view (Letters, 11 October) that there are simple explanations and remedies for this complex problem elicited a rueful sigh.

Adam Keelan says that “it points, of course” to the fact that “academics don’t know their students well enough”; otherwise they would spot work of uncharacteristically high quality. Mr Keelan is clearly unaware that anonymous marking has been the norm in many institutions for years, and on very good anti-discriminatory grounds. This is also one of the reasons why a viva of all students would be difficult to carry out.

Professor Milton thinks the “simple” answer is to abolish all forms of recorded assessment other than final examinations. Aside from the fact that even there cheating is far from unknown, it is well known that a more rounded view of a student’s academic capabilities is derived from a varied assessment pattern.
Dr Richard Allen
Cambridge

Not all students use commercial sources for their essays. One case I supervised involved an MSc student whose thesis contained an – unacknowledged – large chunk from a book. My book.
Dr Duncan Langford
Canterbury, Kent

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