Re: On degrees and the like...

Subject: Re: On degrees and the like...
From: Damien Braniff <dbraniff -at- iss-dsp -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2000 08:24:57 +0100

> I tend to agree with Arlen that universities are reliant on metrics - the more
> students you get, the better grades etc the more likely you are to get
> funding. Results, not education seem to be mantra. This is not necessarily
> due to poor teaching/course etc but often to how these courses have been
> structured as a means of survival for the college/university etc.

And not only higher education is troubled by this problem. I remember when I was
doing my 'Advanced' level subjects (2 years prior to university) we had a
brilliant maths teacher who not only taught us the 'how' but also the 'why' and
anything else he thought might be relevant. We did calculus from first
principles so we knew the background to the 'tool' etc -hard work but enjoyable
and you learned almost in spite of yourself AND you weren't spoon fed but taught
to think things through for yourself and propose answers etc. talking to him a
few years before he retired he said it had all changed - more and more was added
to the curriculum and the pressure of getting people through was such that he
no longer taught maths, he taught people how to pass the exam which is another
thing entirely.

At university the situation was the same where you had the fight between the
urge to enthuse and teach the students vs the need to get the results to keep
the course going.

While I feel that university is a great learning experience I think it's not
what it once was simply because of the pressures placed upon and I feel we
(people generally) must take a lot of the blame. Not sure about the US (how
they're funded etc) but here in the UK when I did my degree you got a grant to
go to university (open to all with the ability!) and, with summer jobs you
survived OK. Now, some 20 years later, students get less of a grant than I got
and most survive with student loans and leave owing money. During this time we
have also seen a substantial drop in individual tax paid - everyone moans about
the lack of money for education/health/ etc but happy with more money in their
pockets. Basically I feel it comes down to the fact that 'you get what you pay

While this has been going on we have seen an increase in industry getting
involved in education at university level (and lower). In part it may be, as
Andrew said, an ego thing but in the main it seems that industry has recognised
that the graduates didn't meet their requirements, especially in engineering,
that they felt the need to provide input that would, hopefully increase the
number of competent graduates.

Anyway, enough rambling for now, time for some real work!

Damien Braniff
Technical Author
Integrated Silicon Systems Ltd. Tel: +44 28 90 50 4000
50 Malone Road Fax: +44 28 90 50 4001
Belfast BT9 5BS Web:

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