Attila the Pun
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Testing 1, 2, 3..

There are some stories which, depending on their source, can be seen as deadly earnest, or almost tongue in cheek. Anything regarding Universities, coming from the Age, can safely be taken as deadly earnest.

Like this one, regarding the Government's proposed expansion of a graduate skills test. There is also a suggestion that funding

" would link university funding to a range of results including student progress, success and drop-out rates."

Not surprisingly, the Unis have opposed it, warning that

"the policy could see institutions rejecting students who were considered bad risks in terms of dropping out or securing employment."

Heaven forbid. Imagine stopping someone from taking up a university place, just because there is a high risk that they won't turn up to lectures, won't pass their subjects, and won't get a job afterwards. To justify this, they warn

Children of poor families could be among those affected, the paper said.

Err, so could children of middle class families and children of rich families. A lazy bum from a poor family is just as underserving of a university place as a lazy bum from a more well off family.

The Vice Chancellors are concerned that the Government's plan

"has a tendency to simply focus on the absolute outcome of what graduates know or can do,"

Trendy academics having an inbuilt aversion to absolutes of course - like truth, pass, fail etc. Further:

"Many of the statements from the government and Dr Nelson act against their policy position of seeking a more diverse sector."

Mmmmm, buzzwords... If by diverse they mean the running down of traditional courses in favour of post-modern wankathons, then I am all in favour of it.

"Universities look to a more complex analysis ... this is also supported by many employers."

I can almost smell the nuance from here. Universities look to a more complex analysis - specifically a qualitative, rather than quantative, approach. Why? Because it is a lot harder to be judged on. Who cares if your graduates aren't getting meaningful employment, or your research is no longer relevant or cutting edge - check out the diversity!

I am not suggesting that everything a University does can be boiled down to pass/fail rates, drop out statistics and employment graphs, but a stubborn refusal to even consider it does the Unis no favours at all.

I will leave the last word to the Bunyip, insightful as always:

What would be the point of training young minds to equate hamburger patties with Islamic terrorists if it were to become public knowledge that those so blessed can't actually hold a job at McDonald's?

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