Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Article excerpt

Managers and Moocs at root of OU's woes

The University and College Union branch at the Open University is extremely concerned about the deficit and falling student numbers reported in Times Higher Education ("OU's numbers dive 28% as pool of part-timers dries up", News, 19 February).

The tuition fees regime in England has caused considerable difficulties for universities, particularly leaders in part-time study such as the OU. However, we want to know how the institution has such a large unexpected deficit when it was always aware of falling student numbers.

We need to be told what the impact will be on the institution's resources. Last year, for example, the university closed one of its nine English regional offices and produced an unconvincing business case after the decision had been taken. We are not prepared to see more poorly planned cuts disguised as reactions to this news.

Local UCU members feel that the current leadership has failed to listen to staff and that decision-making at the institution has become corporate rather than collegial. We hope the new vice-chancellor will take the opportunity of his appointment to rebuild trust with staff.

Pauline Collins

President, University and College Union The Open University

The problems of recruitment and funding at the Open University made for dismal reading for the thousands of people who love the institution and what it has done for so many students over the past 45 years.

Some of the reasons for the funding problem are beyond the OU's control, but a few of us are deeply worried that the focus and expenditure on massive open online courses and FutureLearn have diverted the senior management's attention from the OU's main task of providing an education for its registered students. It now appears that the OU's graduation rate is about 13 per cent, compared with an average graduation rate for full-time UK universities of about 80 per cent.

It is to be hoped that the funding problems will not affect the support to students that is urgently needed to overcome this "distance education deficit", as it is being called.

Ormond Simpson

Visiting fellow, Centre for Distance Education, University of London International Programmes

Former senior lecturer, the OU Institute of Educational Technology

No tuition fees on principle

Students at the University of the West of Scotland have consistently rejected the idea of tuition fees mentioned by Craig Mahoney, principal and vice-chancellor of UWS ("Talk of fees is tricky in Scotland, says principal", News, 19 February). We firmly believe that tuition fees are wrong, both morally and economically, and our students are becoming angry and confused by our principal's continued calls for their introduction.

The argument that students will become more focused in their education if fees are introduced is one that we believe is false. Instead, this will reinforce barriers and prevent people from less privileged backgrounds from studying in higher education.

In the rest of the UK, there has been evidence to suggest that the current fee scheme is more expensive to operate than the previous system. This creates a black hole of funding, and it will begin a spiral into ever increasing costs to students - pricing the poorest out of education.

The Students' Association and its members believe that education is a right, not a privilege, and that students and staff at UWS are losing confidence in the principal over this matter. We would encourage Mahoney to visit the tuition fees monument at Heriot-Watt University and reflect on the words engraved upon it.

Jack Douglas

Student president

The Students' Association, University of the West of Scotland

Sad retreat from vital area

I am an academic at the University of Manchester who also sits on the senate, which has twice discussed the closure of the Middle Eastern studies undergraduate programmes. …

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