Sir, – It is reported that the rules have been reinterpreted to make it easier for the institutes of technology (IOTs) to become universities (“Alarm over ‘dumbing down’ of criteria for new technological universities”, News, March 5th).
This whole enterprise is founded on a misunderstanding of higher education.
The IOTs, rather than aspiring to be classed as universities, should be aspiring to become supreme in their own fields, but different from the universities.
The IOTs are designed to suit those with an applied and practical approach to study and work, a corps of people the country desperately needs, and their research in very real practical issues.
The universities express their expertise more in the fields of long-term and theoretical research as part of the enterprise to extend human knowledge on a broad front. It is not that one is better than the other, merely that they are different and as a country we need both.
The UK made this change many years ago, following a campaign which suggested that the polytechnics would reap all the financial benefits of becoming universities.
Needless to say that did not happen, and they lost their unique identity, and with it the opportunity to make a case that in their own right they needed support and encouragement. We do not need to make the same mistake. – Yours, etc,
Dr PATRICK DAVEY,