Wednesday, 4 January 2012

‘Students are more than just consumers’, according to new university group chair

Taken from the…

New Chairman of the 1994 Group Michael Farthing has hit out against the government’s White Paper, suggesting it promotes universities as ‘warehouses that sell off the shelf qualifications’.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Sussex said that the government’s higher education reforms were not ‘ambitious’ enough and needed to place more emphasis on student experience in his first speech as Chairman of the group this week.

He added, ‘Students are more than consumers purchasing degree certificates.

‘We cannot fall into the trap of reducing higher education to a set of simple transactions. We are promised proposals to support research soon, but the government has failed to recognise the experience universities strive to create for students.

‘Universities are communities where people come together to create and share knowledge.

‘We do students a disservice if we value them as anything other than active participants in these communities.’

The 1994 Group represents 19 of the UK’s leading research intensive universities, and aims to ‘secure widespread recognition and a position of strength to influence decision and policy-making groups.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills told the BBC that the changes in funding, information and places would help students.

‘Up to now, the number of places at each university has been set centrally. That is not in the interests of students.

‘So, in 2012-13, one quarter of all places will be freed from number controls, with greater liberalisation in later years. That means more diverse provision, more student choice and more accountable institutions.

‘People have a range of reasons for going to university but it is vital that they have the information at their fingertips to make well-informed decisions about what and where to study. We want to see the best possible match between universities and students.’

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