From Dr Martin Rhodes.
Sir, Mark Vandevelde’s portrayal of US higher education (“Be wary of following America’s lead on tuition fees”, Comment, October 14) is a hodgepodge of hyperbole and inaccuracy. As a product of Oxford’s hallowed halls, and having worked in several of Britain’s perennially underfunded universities, I know where I’d rather be – both as a professor and as a student.
Yes, the business model may be in trouble, and university costs too high. And many US students are in debt. But the claim that we in the US “assiduously pretend to teach and students halfheartedly pretend to learn” is insulting, arrant nonsense. At my university students pay up to $40,000 a year in fees and are therefore highly incentivised to learn. In return they get small class sizes, substantial career development support, and some of the most dedicated teaching professionals I’ve ever met.
Mr Vandevelde fails to mention the real difference between the US and the UK: the massive levels of philanthropy, from alumni and others, that fund everything from the scholarships that mitigate those high student tuition fees to the buildings, labs and modern learning facilities that many UK universities lack.
Oxford vice-chancellor Andrew Hamilton (with his experience at Yale) and other UK university managers understand that the real challenge for Britain’s universities is to match higher fees with higher private funding – both of which they badly need.
Martin Rhodes, Associate Dean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, CO, US
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