Willetts Revisited

I rarely agree with David Willetts. Reading his new pamphlet on universities, Robbins Revisited: Bigger and Better Higher Education (a comparison between the 1963 Robbins report and current policy), I found that I agree on one principle, mostly discussed in chapter 3, that universities should be focusing as much energy on teaching as they do on research. That’s as far as I can go, though. His statement ‘Looking back we will wonder how the higher education system was  ever  allowed  to  become  so  lopsided  away  from  teaching [towards research]’ (p. 47) has been leapt upon on social media, perhaps unfairly, as a sign that he does not know why it has. In fact, he provides the answer himself: ‘Universities have focused primarily on research because that is where the funding and prestige came from’ (p. 36). He is just not doing enough to change this.

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