31 August 2012


One thing has struck me as particularly odd about the London Met crisis: the gripe about "attendance problems" at university.

I'm not saying that it's OK to get a university place on false pretences and then go AWOL.

But the point of university used to be that it didn't matter how you did it as long as you delivered the goods in the end. That is how Oxbridge humanities worked in my day: two compulsory tutorials a week (with an essay at one of them) and no compulsory classes or lectures beyond that, but very good libraries and a great selection of lectures and classes you could go to as you chose. If you did well in the exams at the end, fine, if not, tough shit.

As an undergraduate, I did every essay on time and turned up to every tutorial enthusiastically, but I missed nearly all the undergraduate lectures in favour of time in the library and going to postgraduate seminars and political meetings. I think I did the right thing, and I don't think universities that discriminate against non-attenders -- at least in most subjects: for anything vocational like engineering or journalism or medicine it's different on the basic skills stuff -- are a good thing.

As a lecturer, I've found that students with dreadful attendance records and the worst attitudes to deadlines can do some of the best work even in practical journalism. Not that I'd encourage non-attendance, but ...