Les Ebdon and Million+
I suspect that no one quite knows what Les Ebdon (above in academic rig) will do as the head of OFFA. In the run up to his appointment I have been torn between distaste, on the one hand, for the vested interests of fee-paying schools and their parents (gosh, what are we paying for if some bloke is going to come along and take away the privilege) and, on the other, for the apparent lack of concern by Ebdon and co for subjects that I suspect they don't really understand (if you wnat Classics or Music to survive as high level, international subjects in this country, you'll have to do something to schools as well as to Uni admissions offices). Honestly, there's something vulgar about both sides.
I did, however, decide to take a look at the website of Million+, the think tank backed by a group of new univesities of which Ebdon is the chair. First let me say that it must be right that universities come in many shapes and sizes. I dont want every university to teach Latin, any more than I want every university to teach Sports Science (worthy as both those subjects are or may be).
That said, alarm bells rang looking at the stuff Million+ has just put out.
There's a new report from them, called "Teaching that Matters". It's about the teaching revolution" that is "underway in modern universities", and the new approach to the student learning experience. No more boring PowerPoint presentations, it said.. but interactive learning. Well let's leave aside the fact that many of us have never done much PowerPoint anyway and have always been pretty interactive, face to face... it's what this report doesn't say that is a bit alarming.
I searched the full report for the word "read". I t came up just once, as a past particple, in a soundbite from a satisfied student from the University of Bedforshire (Ebdon's uni). "The Business Pods were actually the reason for my choosing to come to University of Bedforshire. I read a lot about other universities but not had such a creative looking environment". I had another go with "book"; that came up only in the word "bookmark". Then "library" produced just a reference to how the new Business Pods have replaced "library inductions".
Now many flowers should bloom in higher education, but it is hard not to worry that Ebdon in his role as Access Czar comes from a background that doesn't actually notice books, libraries or reading ... and babies might be about to get thrown out with the bathwater. In the end, we want access AND high academic standards (and high academic standards do include reading). Most of us working in higher education dont think that access is incompatible with high standards; I have a feeling that Ebdon is a bit more one sided.
PS. A quick look suggests that the parallel document (Research that Matters) is very much of the same style . A search for 'humanities" brought rather thin pickings. Maybe that is not a complete damnation (maybe it's legitiame for 'new' universities to concentrate research elsewhere). But cutting edge research in my kind of subject isnt much helped by Business Pods.