Chris Bennett: Education needs to focus on quality
Author: Chris Bennett
Anyone who has A-level age kids will be aware of the sea change taking place in tertiary education so it’s good to see optometry courses remaining popular.
There is always the fear that greater volume means lower quality, so it is vital optometry evolves to meet its own changing market needs and maintains its credentials as a profession that is reassuringly difficult to enter.
Along with university education in general optometry has seen a rapid expansion in numbers. In the past three decades the UK has gone from having a couple of dozen world-class universities to having over 130 universities which close on half of eligible young people attend.
While it’s a great aspiration to go to university upping the numbers so dramatically does have an effect. Employers are increasingly vocal about the quality of the graduates entering the world of work.
And spare a thought for the undergrads. When £1,000-a-year tuition fees were first introduced, by a Labour government, in 1998 few could have imagined how quickly they would increase. They are now £9,250-a-year and rising. Not surprising that would-be undergraduates are questioning if the cost is worthwhile.
With so many first degrees being awarded a fourth year and a Masters is now commonplace, tuition fees have, allegedly, sparked grade inflation too.
It may be overstating the case to say tertiary education is out of control but with applications falling and crises in academic pay and pensions looming some market correction looks likely.
Optometry is fortunate in having its own regulator and being small enough to monitor but it must act to avoid its reputation being damaged. The profession shouldn’t be concerned over numbers of optometrists entering the market simply the suitability and quality of those graduating.