HIGHER AND FURTHER EDUCATION
The University sector should be reduced in size. While many pursue semi-academic personal interest degree courses, there are shortages in vital vocations and trades. University course funding should better reflect the needs of the economy and society.
Vocational Further Education and apprenticeships should increasingly be promoted and financed as a positive alternative to university.
University courses should include an element of assessment common across universities. This would enable those at less prestigious institutions to demonstrate their ability relative to all students. Merit would then weigh more than institutional reputation when assessing a student’s academic record. The possibility of gaining excellent qualifications at a more local university could also help family members stay more local to each other, to the benefit of family life in the longer term.
Concentrated shorter degree programmes with less holiday time should be available.
All non-UK students should pay fees.
Students persisting in using illegal drugs should lose funding for their studies.
Universities should be centres of open debate and stimulating exposure to diverse arguments, not giant “safe spaces” where views judged to be undesirable are driven underground. The government should make it clear to universities that this is what is expected of them. Universities should expose students to a diverse cross-section of opinions. Academic staff should remain free to reflect their own political, religious and philosophical views in their teaching and other academic work. Concern arises, however, when the views of academic staff overwhelmingly lean in one direction, leading to impressionable young students concluding that this view is the only academically respectable one.
Steps should be taken to ensure that students engage with proponents of a wide spectrum of views. Bringing in academics from other institutions, or other thinkers, to debate publicly with university staff could be helpful in this regard. Where whole departments seem dedicated to a specific ideology, as might be the case with Gender Studies, for example, any form of public funding should be reconsidered. Such ideological think tanks promoting political activism should not be funded as university departments.