An ABC of British higher education.

Thomas, Rod (2006) An ABC of British higher education. Kybernetes. The International Journal of Systems & Cybernetics., 35 (1). pp. 148-163. ISSN 0368-492X

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This paper marks the centenary year of W. Ross Ashby (1903-1972), one of the founders of the interdisciplinary subject of cybernetics. It uses Ashby’s cybernetics to construct a framework for understanding some of the features that presently characterise British higher education.
The contents of Ashby’s 1956 book, An Introduction to Cybernetics, are outlined. Cybernetic concepts, principles, and laws are then applied to some of the features that presently characterise UK Universities: growth in student numbers, the modularisation of curricula, concerns over academic standards, and bureaucracy.
The paper finds Ashby’s writings to be critical to understanding the nature of many of the contemporary debates about UK higher education. A diagnosis and critical evaluation of the policy impetus to increase student numbers and modularise curricula is supplied. A cybernetic analysis in support of the current concerns over academic standards is provided. The paper demonstrates why the current higher education quality assurance regime produces a bureaucratised university.
Research limitations / implications
The paper’s framework is supported by an analysis of available national statistics and other secondary evidence, but more detailed, cross-comparative, longitudinal studies of the UK labour market and educational attainment are required.
Practical implications
Given the economic perspective adopted by policy makers – the paper identifies three reasons why the current policy of expanding UK higher education may be flawed.
The paper marks the centenary year of W. Ross Ashby by demonstrating how his writings can supply a framework for understanding the current debates about UK higher education policy.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: cybernetics, United Kingdom, universities
Subjects: N200 Management studies
X300 Academic studies in Education
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
Depositing User: Rod Thomas
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2012 11:49
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 09:54

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