There has been endless talk about the dumbing down of education, but little about how far up the educational ladder this decline has got, with most of the scorn saved for courses like Media Studies and arguments about why training courses have been awarded degree status.
Last week, a Japanese doctor, whom I taught EAP (English for Academic Purposes) last year, contacted me about something she had seen at her institute, which is one of the most respected and prestigious of its kind in the world and where she is taking an MSc in Epidemiology. She wanted to know if she was missing something, or whether there was some cultural issue that she was not aware of.
As part of their course, they were expected to make a role-play presentation to a government minister about a health issue. While most groups looked at the problem from local perspectives, calculated budgets, etc, some of the younger British students adopted other approaches. One group did a song and dance, another sat around and role played how they'd worked through their differences and one had made up rather fetching t-shirts to look good.
Maybe I'm starting to age, but it really did make my blood run cold: postgraduate students are entering a genuinely august institution who think that making t-shirts is a practical and useful way of spending their time. To have got in they must have achieved good grades, so these are hard-working students, yet they seem to be confusing public health policy with TV shows, where the mavericks come through in the final scene. I cannot help thinking that we are heading for an educational crisis if such scenes are being played out at postgraduate level.