Ivory tower under siege

28th January 2000 at 00:00
HIGHER education is likely to take on some of the characteristics of the school system, according to a prominent commentator on the government of education.

Lindsay Paterson, a professor of educational policy at Edinburgh University, believes that the state will soon interfere in universities as much as in schools and colleges and is likely to want a common curriculum.

Professor Paterson told a millennium conference at Edinburgh University that the new scrutiny would come in part from committees of the Parliament assessing the cultural and economic contribution made by higher education to the life of the nation.

The focus was bound to fall on large institutions spending a lot of public money. "Edinburgh University is unlikely to be ignored as its neighbour, Royal Mile primary school, might be."

Professor Paterson said universities would have a common structure, at least for the first two yeas, and that might also embrace non-advanced further education. "That does not mean that all institutions will be doing exactly the same, merely that the student experience will become much the same, through legislation, regulations and funding council directives."

Duncan Rice, principal of Aberdeen University, told the conference students had to be prepared for citizenship "Whatever we think about the environment, about health care, or about a whole range of complex issues we are facing, they are much too important to be left to the experts and they must be mediated by the democratic process."

Sir Stewart Sutherland, principal of Edinburgh University, said that among the dangers facing higher education was a technologically generated threat from the involvement in education of international business, "two or three corporations with the intellectual shape of Coca-Cola".

Leader, page 16

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