Remember the Higher Purpose of Universities When Culling Their Courses; Western Mail

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 4, 2011 | Go to article overview

Remember the Higher Purpose of Universities When Culling Their Courses; Western Mail


IT is no surprise that at a time when budgets are tight, Welsh universities are considering scrapping some of their less popular courses.

Nevertheless, it is important that a full evaluation of the country's educational needs is undertaken before major changes are made.

One of the problems in recent years - and especially since the introduction of tuition fees by the last Labour UK Government - has been the nature of the higher education market which has been created. Decisions about which university departments to expand and which to cut back or close have been made not for educational reasons but as a response to consumer demand. There has been a huge increase in the number of students studying for degrees in media studies, for example, not because there has been an equivalent expansion in the number of jobs in the media industries - there has not - but because that is what a lot of young people want to study.

Funding is determined largely by a seatfilling approach, so universities have succumbed to the temptation of satisfying demand by expanding departments which offer popular courses. This may be good from the universities' point of view in the short term, but it is creating unrealisable expectations among students.

It is worrying when considering the future economic prospects of Wales that fewer students are wanting to study science subjects or modern languages.

Instead of universities simply shutting departments and ploughing savings into the expansion of more popular courses, thought should be given to the nation's overall skills requirements and whether what used to be regarded as core subjects like Chemistry and German should receive special protection. …

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