Well, yes, I think we could support this

The former Labour education minister Andrew Adonis has reignited one of the oldest controversies in British education by calling for the clock to be turned back on polytechnics granted university status.

Lord Adonis told a House of Lords committee that the government’s decision 25 years ago to allow more than 30 polytechnics to take the title of university was a mistake, and argued for the removal of the status from what he termed “the lower-performing former polytechnics”.

“I do think it was a very serious mistake – and I would never have done it as minister – to have rebadged all of the polytechnics as universities in 1992, which was a reform done without any proper consideration or advice,” Adonis told the committee, during a hearing on education funding.

And of course the third grade, like Islington Technical School, should be on a level lower once again.

8 thoughts on “Well, yes, I think we could support this”

  1. I went through that change as a student (1989-93) and I remember the excitement, especially of the head of department.

    The change in status for sure would be prestigious, but above all else it meant lots of money. The difference was tens of millions – I never bothered to check the exact amount.


    Of course there were checks, including carefully stage managed visits. During one such, after I had just bought lunch, I was rudely informed that none of the tables were to be used as they had been reserved for said visitors to eat in peace and quiet (about 10 of them in a space designed for 100). There were no notices or “reserved” signs.

    There were no available lounge seats around the corner, as that area was already full of displaced students.

    I left and sat cross-legged with my tray in the corridor outside. I don’t remember the outcome, but I was likely finished or moved on before the visiting party got there.

  2. 20 years ago, I was chatting with colleagues in the Paris head office about an IT vacancy they were advertising. They were very keen on a British applicant and showed me his CV. I didn’t think it was anything special, but they excitedly jabbed at his education history: “Look! He went to a Polytechnic!!” I felt it was my duty to apprise them of the different use of the term across La Manche.

  3. @ dearieme
    Not *all* of them – keep Birmingham, Durham and Manchester. I think you may have made a typo: it should read post-1900.

  4. Full disclosure I’m a Portsmouth Polytechnic Comp Sci grad. The thing was that back in day Polys were more vocational, they offered a different type of education, and that was valued by lots of employers. By changing names that distinction was lost. Everyone is the poorer for it.

    P.S. I did a sandwich course. 2 years study, 1 year in industry, 1 year study. We were promised employers would fall down in awe at this. In actual fact you just entered on the same graduate salary as people who were a year younger than you, and no one who interviewed me give an airborne copulation about my year in industry.

  5. Ian Reid, You are spot on. Polytechnics offered more weeks of more intensive tuition in STE (can’t talk about M) subjects, so that graduates were more employable and in many cases better educated than grads from other Unis. I always felt that my first degree (also from Portsmouth) set me up well for MSc and PhD at the best Uni in the land in my subject – better than Oxbridge.

    Not saying that Classics aren’t better studied at other places, or Irish Wimmin’s Studies … crap subjects make crap degrees wherever you study.

  6. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Off topic, but has there ever been a bigger exception to the idea of nomen est omen than Andrew Adonis? I mean, he looks like Dobby the House Elf.

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