Friday, 12 November 2010

Reading, Rioting and Arithmetic

Having watched footage of rioting students in London, I'm minded to make one of my 'modest proposals' with regards to University education. Whilst I never had the privilege of going to University, for privilege it is, I've formed the opinion that some things are best taught at University and others are just a waste of classroom time.

Universities down the centuries have nurtured great minds and helped make superb advances in some subjects, but in others, I wonder why they bother. Now subjects like Medicine, Law, Physics, Geology, and all the 'hard' science courses, even Engineering, can be taught to degree level. No problem there. I even think there is a very sound economic case for free education for those who will contribute to the wealth and well being of society far better for having had highly specialised teaching. Even commercial courses should have some discounted fee structure, this is only sensible and proper. It also makes sound commercial sense. Certain cultural courses like Languages, History, and what are called 'The Classics' are not without value and should likewise be well funded by the public purse.

On the other hand, there are subjects which Universities should receive no funding for whatsoever, and no grants or loans should be available for them. The ones I have in mind are PPE's (Political Science) and the various 'soft' subjects such as the 'Social Sciences'. Whilst there will always be a need for Physicists and other scientific researchers, Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers and Business Managers, the rest can go hang. Why should the University system be used to fund what are little better than vanity degrees? It merely devalues the degree as a mark of academic excellence.

I'm in favour of a free higher education for those of an academic and / or high level technical bent. What I'm not in favour of is sending the world and his / her / it's partner of choice through a system better suited for the brightest and best.

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