Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Article excerpt

Maverick spirit of art schools is being crushed

Anna Coatman's feature "Expressive past, sketchy future" (17 March) on the "lost" golden age of UK art schools omitted an important and still relevant fact: there was "something in the air" about those establishments that produced a wealth of talented individuals and groups working in and across many art forms.

Some years ago at a European conference on the future of arts education, I was asked by Germany's minister of higher education (we were next to each other in the coffee queue) what it was about UK arts education that enabled us to be world leaders in so many creative fields, when Germany - with a few notable exceptions - had no such consistent success? I replied that we had a long tradition of non-conformity and a high tolerance of eccentricity, neither of which, I added rather impertinently, were common traits in his own country.

While today's art schools are no doubt fully aligned with their institutional mission statements, compliant with regulations and fulfilling employability and other targets, there is a nagging suspicion that the space for creativity, non-conformity and eccentricity has been closed down.

With arts education under sustained attack by the government, it is perhaps no surprise that "guerrilla" tactics are being employed.

Paul Kleiman

Visiting professor, Middlesex University and Rose Bruford College

Unsung classics

I was very glad to see Emma Gee raise the issue of the translation of Classics and its scholarly nature and potential to engage the public ("Share the odyssey", 17 March). And yet, the vast majority of Greek and Latin literature does not exist in any modern language. It is inaccessible to nearly everyone. One need merely think of the 300 volumes of the Patrologia Graeca and Latina. Then there are languages such as classical Armenian, Syriac, Christian Arabic - all full of material that might be of use, and very little of which exists in English.

We need to change the structure of research funding such that creating the first English translation of some text is itself worth funding. We don't need a 2,999th version of the Iliad or the Odyssey; we do need the very first version of most ancient texts.

Roger Pearse

Via timeshighereducation.com

OU soul-searching

The Open University does, as Ormond Simpson argues, need to rediscover a personal touch ("The Open University needs to make it personal", Letters, 10 March), but that in itself cannot be the solution to the massive problem of retention and progression.

In a university where half of new students - the vast majority on tuition fee loans - fail their first year of study or do not progress further, serious questions must be raised about what the OU is for. Is its open access policy as currently operated sustainable? It has to be dishonest and morally bankrupt to recruit students whom it knows will fail and leave indebted - how can this be consistent with a widening participation agenda?

Even if the OU doesn't care, the government should mind whether universities retain (through to completion of their study goals) the widening participation students they have successfully recruited - or is it too playing the game of a higher education system that "piles them high" but doesn't want to worry about the consequences?

And Pete Gubbins is right that the increase in cost of OU study and the access to part-time loans has dampened the market for part-time study at the OU as elsewhere, but there is a bigger factor in play - the wider impact on demand for part-time adult higher education of the massive increase in the proportion of 18-year-olds going to university, now almost 50 per cent. …

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