Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dumbing down in British universities

Yesterday I questioned Phil Willis's attitude towards those who suggest there may have been some dumbing down of standards in universities.

Laurie Taylor's satirical column about the University of Poppleton, written for the Times Higher Education Supplement, is a lot nearer the mark:
Dumbing down

Janet Fluellen, our Director of Curriculum Development, has enthusiastically welcomed the news that a cross-party panel of MPs has asked academics to submit evidence of dumbing down in universities.

"We are so committed to this exercise," she told The Poppletonian, "that we have constituted a high-powered dumbing-down committee (myself and the vice-chancellor). Any Poppleton academic with evidence of slipping or falling standards should submit their claim to this committee together with their name, age, departmental affiliation, number of years in service, a recent passport-size photograph, a P45 and a small DNA sample."

1 comment:

Matthew Huntbach said...

Working in the field, I confirm, dumbing down is happening and Willis isn't up to his job if he doesn't understand that and understand why.

Here's some reasons:

Student financial support - now so weak many students are fitting their studies around their part (sometimes full) time jobs rather than vice versa, they do not have time to put in the hours of study required.

SATs - students have grown up in the age of the SAT, they are used to education being narrowly oriented to passing the test, and teaching being all about techniques to do that rather than deeper knowledge and skills.

Quality Assurance - in the name of "fairness", teaching and assessment has to fit into tick-box criteria, which means anything open ended which involves personal judgment and is unpredictable gets ruled out.

The Research Assessment Exercise - provides a perverse incentive to university lecturers to put the minimal effort into teaching, as it means all funding and promotion possibilities depend on getting research publications and grants.

Juvenilisation - students these days use school terrminology at university (lectures are called "lessons", coursework is called "homework" etc), and a far more likely to have parents accompanying them to interviews etc. All signs that 18 is the new 13 ...

Trendy 16-18 qualifications - basic abstract skills in language, mathematics etc are an essential requirement for serious university level education, they are tested and developed by the traditional subject A-levels, they are not tested and developed by most "vocational" qualifications and "studies" A-levels.

I could probably think of more, but you get the picture even if Willis doesn't ...