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It's official: students love tuition fees!

Research. n. arm of Government policy; official subterfuge; a branch of investigative learning where the result precedes the data which determines it; a hoax; a fraud.

Well, perhaps not yet. But they're working on it. 'They' in this case being our control-obsessed, ever-so-slightly-paranoid, finger-in-every - pie Government.

If you think I'm exaggerating, just consider David Blunkett's recent reaction to a piece of educational research. Did he say: "I don't agree with your conclusions, but in a democracy I'll fight to the death to enable you to continue publishing them?" Adding perhaps: "It's the job of academics to disinterestedly enquire and to present their findings, even if they contradict Government policy."

Not exactly. According to the Observer, he said that their conclusions were daft and a waste of taxpayers' money.

What he said when it was pointed out that the researchers didn't have any public money - their work was independently funded - wasn't reported. No doubt it was something sharp and pithy.

Perhaps we can now look forward to a future where research will proceed along the lines that some in Government would like all education to proceed - payment by results.

After all, it's only natural that those in power should have an interest in the thing when they put so much money into it (albeit not in the particular case that so disconcerted Mr Blunkett).

And, given their thumping majority, shouldn't they have the right - the democratic right - to lay down guidelines for research?

Some would no doubt complain if these "guidelines" imply that the results of research shouldn't contradict Government policy; but then aren't there always elitist academics who refuse to listen to the people?

It's simply a question of getting used to a new approach. One where you start with the results and work backwards to the data rather than the other way around. Once they've taken this more positive approach on board, the researchers will surely be as free as ever to carry out their work.

Then perhaps we can look forward to some really good news. Something like the following:

Can pay, will pay!

IMPORTANT new research shows that university students positively welcome the brave new Government initiative on fees.

After years of dodging lectures and spendng their time in union bars, the researchers have found that undergraduates are flocking to classes in record numbers.

"Now they're paying for it they think their education is really worth something," said research leader Dr IC Mainchance. "When it was free that wasn't happening."

So popular are the new pound;1,000-per-year fees, that those exempted, such as single parents and others on benefits, are clamouring to be included. "They feel stigmatised by their exclusion," said Dr Mainchance. "They'd much rather hand over cash to the Government than waste it on luxuries such as food and clothing for their children."

Superlec boost!

LECTURERS have said a big 'yes' to the extension of performance-related pay.

Following its runaway success in schools, pilot schemes in a number of FE colleges indicate that it will be just as popular there.

Early results from a Government-funded research project show that lecturers feel "very positive" about the creation of superlecturers on higher pay scales.

A spokesperson for NATFHE, the lecturers' union, said that, while only a few teachers in each college would get promotion, those on lower pay levels would feel inspired by working with higher-paid colleagues.

"Working harder for less money themselves will quickly be forgotten if lecturers feel they have super-colleagues to give them a lead," she added.

Must try harder

POVERTY, deprivation and ignorance have little bearing on educational achievement, groundbreaking research has revealed.

In a study of 50 colleges across Britain, the researchers found that students in deprived areas did perform worse than those from more affluent areas.

"There is, however, no causal link between these two factors," said Professor Andy Instrument, the research team leader. In a particularly hard-hitting part of his report, Professor Instrument maintains that many of the teachers in so-called "deprived" areas lack the required skills and dedication. "In old-fashioned terminology many of them are just plain idle," said the professor.

"In principle, there's no reason why students in these areas shouldn't perform as well as sixth-formers in top grammar schools," said Professor Instrument, confirming that his own children will stay in such schools "for the foreseeable future".

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