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Radical change is needed It works fine as it is
Debate Score:7
Total Votes:7
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 Radical change is needed (4)
 It works fine as it is (1)

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UK Higher Education needs more radical change than a debate about who funds it

With the wider debate raging around the affordability of higher education tuition fees it seems we might be all asking the wrong question.

Is funding or cutting the same model of higher education the real issue. Or would a more radical shake up of higher education be more affordable and indeed more effective at preparing our young people for work and life in the 21st Century?

So, to sharpen the debate I ask you to consider the following:

Do you think a smart student of today would be right to question starting a 3 year degree course and incur significant debt in the process...OR...

Spend those three years developing work experience with supplementary online study?

Imagine if this was your own decision, or your child's decision - what would you do?

Indeed if you are a young student this is a real dilemma for you - would love to hear your views.


Radical change is needed

Side Score: 5
Winning Side!

It works fine as it is

Side Score: 2
2 points

OK, let's kick off with a quick 10 reasons on this side:

1. Ineffiecient - occupancy rates of buyiilding often less than 25%.

2. Duplication - they rarely if ever share anything, therefore costly to run.

3. One start date per year - crazy.

4. Shut down for huge periods during year - wasteful.

5. Skew schools curriculum away from vocational qualifications.

6. Researchers, on the whole, make lousy teachers.

7. Outdated 'lecture' is main mode of learning.

8. Hopeless at using technology to learn.

9. Academics not green - flying everywhere to deliver dull lectures.

10. Socially divisive - favouring private education.

Side: Radical change is needed
1 point

All these points are valid. The costs continue to rise. When will be realise that an outdated system - set up for the elite is NOT the best way to educate the future generation.

There are so many areas you could focus on so rather than jump around I'll make comments on some of the points Donald raises:

2. Duplication - they rarely if ever share anything, therefore costly to run - Web 2.0 shows what a social animal humans are. People want to share, network and learn from eachother. The system should reflect this. All this ownership and competition must end.

3. One start date per year - crazy - Yes. Formal learning tried to shoehorn the process into neat timeframes. This is just plain wrong. Learning happens all the time.

6. Researchers, on the whole, make lousy teachers - There are some fantastic ones but there is no real training for this! Which is crazy. It's hard to work with educators to incorporate learning technology into the learning design process when there is no learning design in the first place.

7. Outdated 'lecture' is main mode of learning - This is all about setting didactic teaching up as the main teaching method and it's wrong.

8. Hopeless at using technology to learn - Yes, for a variety of reason. One of which is that they choice to be hopeless.

9. Academics not green - flying everywhere to deliver dull lectures - There are other ways to deliver content now.

Side: Radical change is needed
1 point

Yes absolutely – the smart student should think long and hard about what course they are doing, why and what they will have at the end of it – they should also see if the course offers hands-on and placement opportunity and go for those rather than just 3 years of pure theory.

As a business owner, ex lecturer and an employer of fresh faced graduates I am constantly amazed at just how different the HE space is to a commercial environment.

Roll back to September 2008 and we got two very different CV from two young men.

The first was 21 years old – he had received a 1st Class honours degree from his digital media course, along with a letter of recommendation from his tutor.

The second was only 18 years old – he had left home at 16 and had been freelancing as a digital artist since, a rather precarious existence at such a young age.

I had a lot of preconceptions about educations, coming from a family where everyone has a lot of university education with a father and a sister who both have PhDs I was pretty sure that our second contestant should go to university – afterall I had never employed anyone without a degree. But I decided to take them both on.

Six months later – and my view about university education couldn’t have been more different. We had to let our 1st class degree guy go, because he didn’t make a single commercial contribution to any of the projects, despite our best efforts, he simply didn’t get the fact that you need to make the commercial grade if you want to get paid for it! Worse still because he had a 1st it would seem that he really thought he didn’t need to learn anything new or listen to advice.

Whilst our school-leaver was flourishing – really taking in every shred of advice given to him and producing outstanding work.

Outcome :

we would rather take on young people who haven’t been spoiled by university and train them ourselves – or alternatively – take year out students and convince them to come back to you once they’ve finished their degree.

The best way to learn is on the job – if you can combine on the job training with HE in a meaningful way that is the best way to go forward.


Although spending 3 years drinking and having non-committal fun with the opposite sex is definitely a great way to avoid responsibilities and make ‘child-hood’ last that little bit longer!


Side: Radical change is needed
1 point

absolutely. this is why education continues to become more irrelevant to the social and business needs of the world.

my guess is that it wont be long before either a) business decides to step in to set up more academies and b) progressives decide that they can teach and people can learn without the antiquated university system that we presently have. However this kind of thinking wont come from inside of the institution

Thankfully, i feel that 'Open Education' can address some of the needs of both.

Supporting Evidence: Future of University talk by David Parry (
Side: Radical change is needed
2 points

I certainly don't think it works fine as it is - but neither do I agree that work experience with online learning constitutes a credible alternative to the richness of the university experience. It is of course cheap - and hence an idea that industry would no doubt support as they get increasingly and worryingly more involved with education.

It is also surely an inequality of opportunity that allows students who do not have parents with the means to totally support them financially to be penalised by a heavy burden of debt when they start work? Would it be better to return to the days where less places were available for a smaller and more academic range of curricula - but where all students were fully funded regardless of means?

Side: Radical change is needed