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The annual Education UK Exhibition (EDUKEX) was opened by Guy Warrington, Consul-General from the British Embassy in Dubai on Sunday with more than 50 universities pitching their course offerings to future students.
While university academics in the UK have raised concerns in the past week about cuts in the higher education budget by £600 million over the next three years, Alison Devine, Regional Manager Education UK, Middle East, at the British Council said the matter needs to be put “into perspective.”
“We are talking about small budget cuts — at about 1 per cent and 0.7 per cent last year,” she told Khaleej Times at the sidelines of the event.
“And there has been tremendous growth in higher education since 1997.
“Of course, in the UK, academics will be up in arms because nobody wants budget cuts and they have to protest loudly to make sure there are no further cuts.”
Spokespersons of the Russell Group that owns 20 leading UK universities stated ‘our gold standard system could be replaced with one of silver or worse...’ with ‘a devastating effect not only on students and staff, but also on Britain’s international competitiveness, economy and ability to recover from recession,’ in the media.
In 2009, more than 2,400 students from the UAE opted for higher education in the UK — up by nine per cent on 2008.
Recruitment officers at the fair said the budget cuts will not mean less quality but simply an adaptation.
Perihan Cousins, International Recruitment Manager at The University of Hull said they need to meet criteria laid down by the Quality Assurance Agency that ensured high standards.
“I think universities will make cuts in areas that are expensive like laboratories that have equipment that cost several thousand pounds....”
Devine said budget cuts would not necessarily mean an increase in the tuition fee or dilution of quality. “There are many way of managing budget cuts,” she said.
“Universities may decide to merge and you might find some departments close. Also, quality is unaffected because it would only means doing less of something.”
The Hull York Medical School is run as a partnership between University of Hull and York, something Cousins said medical schools are encouraged to do, to share costs.
While large universities may still be able to wade through the turbulent waters unharmed, smaller universities face greater challenges with the budget cuts.
The School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London will not see any changes in the short term but over time will put pressure on certain courses offered said Nick Butler, Head of Student Recruitment.
“We offer lots of subjects and languages like Burmese, Vietnamese and Nepalese that are opted by few students,” he said.
“There will be a lot of pressure on maybe closing down some of these departments.”
However he said the university will try to avoid the situation by sorting internal administration and improving efficiency. “There is no where else you can learn some of these languages in the UK.” he said.
“If we have to drop them it will be a serious blow to UK education.”
Representatives also maintained that entry criteria like high academic scores were non-negotiable and that only the most capable students would be selected to represent their universities.
There’s an age-old question that everyone seems to struggle with at some point in life. Is it better to be a Renaissance man or woman and be good at a lot of different things or be laser-focused and really great at one specific thing?The “jack of all trades” question is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. I love the idea of being a generalist. I really enjoy the act of creation, and happen to pick new things up quickly…It keeps the brain stimulated, and makes for interesting conversation and an adventurous life.The problem is that what makes for an interesting life doesn’t necessarily make for a lucrative or successful career.If you’re drawn to doing a lot of different things like I am, it’s probably because you enjoy the rush you feel when trying something new. The Pareto principle applies here because you might be able to learn 80 per cent of a skill in 20 per cent of the time it would take to master it. That quick progress is addictive and fun.In work, however, jumping from one thing to the next doesn’t necessarily pay off. You will undoubtedly end up competing with people who have focused on one thing for much longer than you have…By focusing on doing one thing, you not only give yourself a shot at putting in the effort to become amazingly great at something, but you also make it easier for potential customers or employers to see you as “the guy who’s really great at that thing.”…What I am suggesting is that trying to do a lot of different things professionally at the same time makes it exceedingly difficult to succeed.One of the rewards of being really great at something is that eventually you’ll have the time and luxury of being able to try something else professionally.
Corbett Barr ditched his cushy job for self employment and adventure and blogs@Freepursuits
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