Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440 - 442)



  Q440  Dr Harris: So you would be supportive of moving to a more credit-based system, at least, in order to facilitate that, or do you think that would be too radical for this country?

  Professor Arthur: I think you would need to look at the whole picture and look at the impact of that on the cost of it—in other words, the cost of that on autonomy, and so on, and the diverse nature of the sector. So I do not think it is a simple set of issues that you can trap me into saying I definitely am a supporter of the community college system, therefore—

  Q441  Chairman: We cannot trap you into anything, is the answer!

  Professor Arthur: I think we should look seriously at the community college system and everything that goes with it, as part of the package.

  Q442  Dr Harris: What do you mean by "autonomy"? Do you mean the ability of a publicly-funded university to do its own thing regardless of the needs of the sector as a whole, the needs of fairness and the needs of having a national system? Or do you mean something else by the "autonomy" argument against the credit system?

  Professor Arthur: I am a very, very strong supporter of the autonomy of universities, but that does not mean that the autonomy disregards everything that surrounds it—city, region, government funding. I think we fully accept our responsibilities, but the thing about autonomy is the creativity that goes with it for people to develop new courses that are exciting and interesting.

  Professor Driscoll: I think we need to grasp the nettle of a national credit-based system and national credit-based funding. You will find that the universities, like mine, that have very diverse student bodies (lots of part-timers, full-timers, people moving in and out—exactly what you describe) are closer to what you will find, typically, in the United States than those universities that are very monolithic, most of their undergraduates are recruited at 18 and they have comparatively few postgraduates and, also, comparatively lower levels of part-time. They do not want it because they see it is a hassle, but I think we have to take a national decision on this, and it is about time we caught up with the rest of the world, we introduced a national credit-based system and we fund students on credit as well, or institutions for their teaching.

  Chairman: On that note, could I bring this to a close. I have to say, to all three of our witnesses, that has been one of the most interesting and lively sessions we have had in this inquiry. Thank you very much indeed for your evidence this morning.

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