Skilled students

In the first decade of this century Napier University had a dubious distinction. It admitted more students than anywhere else in Scotland from family backgrounds that had never experienced higher education before.

This might be a factor explaining lack of social mobility which George Kerevan mentioned (Perspective, 19 February). But I thought he was overstating the case by alluding that it is part of “sending more working-class kids into the system to be processed”.

A dynamic economy will need a supply of highly skilled and knowledgeable labour. If it emerges from Napier or any other institution, that can only be beneficial.

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Hopefully that same labour force should have the wider perspective that a university education ought to provide.

Achieving the balance between vocational skills and a broad education has vexed education researchers for decades.

But we shouldn’t be disparaging simply because Napier seemed to put the emphasis on the first of these two areas. When “working-class kids” emerge from there with high-quality skills, that must be seen as positive.

A mismatch between supply and demand may sometimes come about.

But that simply reinforces the need for the universities to liaise more effectively with employers and research the labour market more rigorously.

There always ought to be an emphasis on encouraging all students to take a holistic approach too. High earning power needs to be balanced by that concern for others which an innovative education should provide.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court