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Thursday, 29 December 2011


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Ah, yes, a subject I know something about, at last!

You are right about the old Polytechnics, but the rot set in long before they became "New Universities". Many of them offered humanities subjects which were useless compared to the technical stuff.

Nowhere in the UK is there an emphasis on academic excellence. It is undermined either by direct commercial pressures, or indirectly in the form of being required to hit "targets" for enrolments, retention, and passing exams. And if you don't hit the targets, guess what happens to the next cheque from the funding authority! Where excellence exists, it is as an historic hangover, rather than because of how the system works.

There is one of those new little universities in our town. Truly piss-awful. Yet the idea of the government actually letting it go under is greeted by its employees as totally outrageous. I have never known a group of people with such an unrealistic sense of entitlement and privilege. They make me long for a deeper and harsher recession. If the economy were really in trouble, they would have gone long ago...

Quite so, 'W', the introduction of high fees, which some of these 'polyversities' think they can charge, will give them all a lesson in market forces.

This problem isn't just in the UK, or just with universities converted from polytechnics.

Here in New Zealand, all the polytechnics are panicking over a new emphasis on end-results. They were accustomed to just shovelling in masses of low-competence students, to collect tuition plus large amounts of tapayor subsidies (per-head, no limit). With zero concern for the quality of education offered, or whether those students could even pass the lowest level courses. High dropout rates were cool, because they got to keep the money without the work of actually providing any education to those dropouts. They got away with that scam since at least the 1980s.

New Zealand polytechnics also enjoy offering bogus courses like, "Certificate Of Retail And Cosmetics," with zero interest in actually improving students' employability or life prospects.

But now, the Tertiery Education Commission has been cracking down, and demanding accountability by cutting down those taxpayor subsidies. While telling the polytechnics that there won't be any more bailouts, and that they may be allowed to fail.

Frontline teaching staff have been told by the polytechnic management that their pay rates, and even job security, now depend on performance.

Unfortunately, the performance accountability is largely about pass and retention rates. This means that the polytechnics now have a perverse incentive to pass, or at least retain, students at all costs. That means dumbing down courses even worse than previously. That means making tests much easier than the material being presented. That means making a test even easier for an individual who still couldn't pass it. That means looking the other way to incredibly bad student behaviour and nonexistant classroom discipline (including open sexual harassment). That means failing to enforce rules. All the way to refusing to care even if the students cheat.

An excellent example is Whitireia Community Polytechnic in Porirua, New Zealand. Their sense of entitlement is stunning, and they are having great difficulty adjusting. They feel deeply victimised, and think that the solution is to go back to the good ol' days of bums-on-seats, zero standards, and pass rates lower than 50%. And let's not forget their open racial bias. Too bad they refuse to openly, honestly communicate with the students about any of that.

Whitireia Community Polytechnic is so low that they respond quite negatively to any student who is actually intelligent enough to notice what is going on. I will be laughing as the NZ Tertiery Education Commission continues to tighten the purse-strings, until Whitireia Community Polytechnic shrivels up, convulsing in the afore-mentioned sense of entitlement.

I am so glad I got out of that cesspit.

Oh dear, and there was me thinking that New Zealand was an oasis of good sense! By coincidence, 'OS', I just heard 'out the corner of my ear' in the last day or two that our Min of Ed, Mr. Gove, hs decided to cull several hundred courses from our 'Polyversities' on the grounds that the subject matter is utterly spurious and of no use to the so-called students. So there is hope!

Anyway, welcome to D&N.

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