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Education Changes: the Hidden Agenda

EDUCATION CHANGES:

THE HIDDEN AGENDA
The proposals for Modularisation, Credit
Accumulation and Credit Transfer
(MOCACT) currently under consideration at universities have profound implications for students. Yet there has been virtually no consultation with student bodies.

Why?

Proponents of MOCACT argue that it
will increase student choice; enlarge the
range of qualification levels; increase freedom of student movement between institutions; and generate a greater degree of
student (consumer) power. In the abstract
these all seem highly attractive. However,
behind MOCACT lies the barely hidden
government agenda to get education on
the cheap. In simplifying education, in
turning it into series of separable, purchasable commodities (modules) that can be
‘pic-n-mixed’, over time and between institutions, MOCACT paves the way for
the allocation of education by the market
with competition between institutions,
aimed at the provision of faster, cheaper,
lower quality education. However they are
presented, these proposals are ultimately
quite simply about money – about the
students paying it, the university making it
and the government saving it.

Students will firstly pay directly in
cash. MOCACT can only be understood in
the context of the underfunding of all education since the mid 1970s – the real cuts
in student grants, the loss of benefits, the
introduction of loans, cuts in the money
given to institutions of higher education
and so on. The logic is simple: if students
are increasingly made to pay for education, they will want what the government
wants – education on the cheap – and they
will be (economically) forced to impose
this demand on educational institutions.

MOCACT clears the way for a ‘learn as
you can afford to’ approach (accumulate
your credits as you can afford them, transfer to a cheaper institution if necessary)
and the ending of free, quality education
properly funded. Secondly, students will

also pay indirectly in quality, for the price
of the ‘product’ will necessarily become
crucial. Institutions will be drawn into
price wars to attract students who are increasingly paying for their education: cost
cutting, not quality, will be the key. If you
are having to pay for your education and
have little or no money, you will be forced
to seek the cheapest possible ‘product’.

MOCACT facilitates the provision ofthis:

shorter’ degrees’ , ‘seminars’ of at least 2530 persons, the likely elimination of free
services such as library and computer facilities, laboratory materials and so on.

The developments in the polytechnic sector over the last five years reveal how real
this threat is: a 35% increase in student
numbers (with more planned) backed by a
paltry 5% real increase in funding. You
will not know that you have been short
changed until it is too late. In reality,
therefore, these policies will diminish real
choice, not increase it as claimed; they will
reduce education to the lowest common
denominator. No doubt ‘elite’ private and
semi-private institutions offering ‘quality’

education will spring up (as in the US) for
those who can afford to pay the going
market price. But they will, of course, be
beyond the financial reach of most. In the
US students who cannot afford the fees of
$16,000 per annum at Harvard and Yale
and other top quality institutions have to
accept the cheaper, much poorer quality
education available at state schools. Do we
really want to go down that road?

MOCACT will also promote uniformity of education, for, unless the courses at
your institution are fairly ‘standard’, you
will be unable to accept the first or second
year students of another. Innovation, imagination, creativity and critique in education will be undermined; homogeneity will
predominate and will, indeed, become crucial to market success. Easy transferability
will become central to institutional moneymaking. Needless to say, staff will be
repeatedly reminded of the ‘realities’ of

modem (market) life.

The claim that MOCACT will increase
access to higher education is just as fraudulent. The real problem of access to higher
education is not and never has been’ time’ ,
nor ‘flexibility’ ,nor location, it has always
been money, the refusal by government to
properly fund good quality education.

MOCACT is a Trojan horse by which this
albatross can be removed from the neck of
governments of all political colours.

Finally, in enthusiastically endorsing
these proposals, the University continually stresses the ways in which they will
enhance student ‘power’; a remarkable
conversion to something they have vigorously opposed in the past! The reason, of
course, is that the alleged ‘power’ that
modularisation gives to students is the
harmless, disempowering, fragmented
power of the individual ‘consumer’ confronted (on a purely ‘take it or leave it’

basis) by pre-packaged, ‘off the shelf’,
‘products’. Real student power can only be
achieved by greatly increasing student representation on University bodies, on departmental committees and the like; by
increasing collective student power on the
important decision-making c.ommittees of
the University from Council down. If the
University really is a convert to student
power, let them give us 50% representation on these bodies. Then we can contribute to discussions on the nature, content
and structure of our education. If we are to
have a supermarket approach to education
we do not want to stand outside the shop,
peering in through the window, wondering
whether we will ever be able to afford to
enter. We want to sit on the Board of
Directors and participate in the educational process, for that is what education is
– a process, not a ‘product’! Education,
like health and housing, should be a free
right over which we have some democratic
control.

The Critical Lawyers Group
University of Kent

LIBERALISM AND THE NEW EUROPE An international conference hosted jointly by Brighton Polytechnic,
UK, and J. E. Purkyne University, Czechoslovakia, in association with the History of Ideas Colloquium and the Oikos Cultural
Organisation to consider the origins and impact of liberal political thinking on EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT, with
special reference to economics, politics, social psychology and education.

J. E. Purkyne University, Usti nad Labem, Czechoslovakia 8-13 July 1992
Workshops based on pre-circulated papers; plenaries £250 per person, to include meals, accommodation, registration and
excursion to Prague
For further information; to reserve a place; and/or offer a workshop, contact: Dr B Brecher , School of Historical and
Critical Studies, Brighton Polytechnic, Falmer, Brighton, Sussex BNl 9PH, UK (telephone 0273643309)

64

Radical Philosophy 60, Spring 1992

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