28 NOVEMBER 1987, Page 29

Sir: Dr Terence Kealey is right. University tenure was so

appallingly abused during the post-Robbins expansion that it is now difficult to defend. His survey of the devastated academic landscape is, none the less, far too brisk. He notes (14 November) that Britain ranks as one of the world's top three producers of scientific papers; but also (22 November) that 'the Technische Hochschulen and grandes ecoles . . . pro- duce more effective entrants to industry than do our over-academic universities'. The point is surely that French and Ger- man academics are not under the obliga- tion to publish, unlike academics in the top three 'producing' countries, Britain, Cana- da and the United States, and I know of no reason to think they are any worse off for it.

Dr Kealey, like the authors of the Jarrett Report, is reinforcing a dangerous myth of what constitutes value for public money. Among the most distinguished scholars and teachers I know (though I confess I can only claim to talk of those in the Humani- ties) are some who have published little or nothing compared with others who, in many cases, are merely more conventional and more ambitious. The purpose of pre- serving live wood is not merely to produce more paper. This is precisely, none the less, what the present government and the UGC is believed (mistakenly or otherwise) to want. Each department in my own university is expected this year to report the total number of pages published by its members; which I hope will strike your readers as incredible, though I assure them that it's completely true.

Geoffrey Strickland

Reader in French, University of Reading, PO Box 218, Reading, Berkshire