Tue. Oct 19th, 2021

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In “University rankings are just an educated guess” (Opinion, FT Weekend, September 25), John Gapper does a great job of criticizing the university’s ranking system.

But the most serious accusation against them is that they propose and reinforce the view of higher education as a consumer good, where the content of a course is entirely subordinate to the student’s “applicability” at the end of it.

This in turn leads to a whole series of distorting behaviors of the kind described elsewhere in the same issue by Tom Braithwaite (“Student fraud turned into a technical arms race”, The top line).

At a much earlier stage, the universities, or their vice-chancellors, could have refused to play ball by refusing to cooperate with the commercial publishers, refusing to provide the necessary information and / or condemning criticism.

One or two individual institutions – in general, the less prestigious – have been doing this for a while. But unfortunately they are also too far on the competition / consumption route. Marketing has sounded the death knell of ‘liberal’ higher education.

Roger Brown
Emeritus professor and former
Vice-Chancellor, Solent University
Southampton, United Kingdom

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