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Readers’ letters: University degrees seem to be turning into first class nonsense

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Sir, – As we emerge from the Covid pandemic, it came as a surprise when I discovered that, despite well-publicised disruption to education at all levels, the proportion of students in England graduating with first class honours is not far short of 40%, a third of all students now deemed capable of achieving the pinnacle of undergraduate excellence.

As someone who graduated in the 1960s I find this astonishing.

During my course it was evident from early years those likely to gain a first, for the simple reason they were exceptionally clever, so it came as no surprise when the recipients were announced – they comprised 8% of the class, one of whom became a professor before reaching the age of 30.

To illustrate that our class was not unusual, the percentage of firsts the following year was identical.

Giving her views on the present surprising figures, the head of the Office for Students is quoted as saying “there may be a variety of reasons – including improved teaching and learning – that could lead to an increase in the rate of firsts awarded”.

Aye maybe; I can think of more likely reasons. The devaluing of degrees with firsts being as common as two a penny brings no long-term advantage to either recipient or society.

Those who are exceptional being indistinguishable from those whose talent is less.

Saying you have a first has less merit if Mary two doors down and Jim at the end of the road are similarly honoured.

If this trend continues anything less than a first will be, to quote Liverpool’s legendary manager Bill Shankly on verbal agreements, “not worth the paper they are written on”.

Will Scotland’s figures also show how common firsts have become?

Ivan W Reid, Kirkburn, Laurencekirk.

Time to break free from our overlords

Sir, – It is gratifying that Nicola Sturgeon is perceived, throughout the UK, to have been “more than competent” in dealing with the Covid pandemic.

She is however only rendering managerial competence to our incompetent London overlords.

Westminster remains determined to bypass Holyrood with the UK Internal Market Act and the infamous Nationality and Borders Bill, along with imposing British freeports and levelling up schemes.

Furthermore Boris Johnson’s dysfunctional government is ready to suspend democracy by refusing any debate on independence, irrespective of political mandates of the growing majority wishes of the people of Scotland.

A strong response, not platitudes, is now required from senior SNP figures as they consider a date, as promised, in 2023 for indyref 2. I firmly believe that independence and the breath of freedom gives meaning to life not only for an individual but also for a nation.

Grant Frazer,  Cruachan, Newtonmore.

Responsibility for NHS in Scotland

Sir, – An All Under One Banner independence pressure group march was held in Glasgow at the weekend past and its main theme with banners and placards was Save the NHS from Westminster but – correct me if I’m wrong – the NHS in Scotland is fully devolved to Holyrood.

I’m sure the separatist supporters are not that stupid and are using disinformation for the use of politicising their cause.  But I could also be wrong and they actually believe in what they were marching for.  Maybe they could inform me.

Ian Gray, Mosstowie, Elgin.

Salmond’s Alba Party wiped out

Sir, – In which alternative dimension does former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond believe the second disastrous set of results for his Alba Party are in any way “gains”?

His long-overdue post-election post-mortem claim that “in some areas we achieved results at the levels which would see candidates elected in the Scottish Parliament” in particular is pure fantasy.

Alba’s “best” result in Fraserburgh saw councillor for 38 years Brian Topping’s vote crash from 652 votes (12.8%) to 274 (5.8%). Only a few of the party’s candidates scraped a hundred each – that included 12 other sitting councillors, all wiped out.

Either Alba and the rest of the dwarf stars of Scottish nationalism’s anti-Sturgeon factions put pragmatics before their egos and unite, or from now until doomsday all they’d achieve is enriching local printing firms at elections as the vainglorious throw good money after bad.

Mark Boyle, Linn Park Gardens, Johnstone, Renfrewshire.

SNP vanity project is the problem

Sir, – With respect to your recent story on Scottish ferries problem, there are ferry companies and ship builders who can obviously do a far better and cheaper job but that’s not the issue.

If CMal were not massively subsidised they would be bankrupt in a week.

Why is the Scottish Government running a ferry service when it has no business nous or competence to do so?

One might also wonder why at least £2 billion is being squandered on a “national bank”? We already have banks doing that function.

Why do we spend hundreds of millions setting up a duplicated Scottish benefits agency when the agency we already have and pay for is more capable than the one created and is indeed still required to pay out Scots benefits?

The important things in areas like mental health services, nursing and social care would be transformed by spending those billions of pounds on the Scots people rather than these SNP vanity projects.

The ferries are a symptom, the SNP is the problem.

Doug Gibb, Morven Crescent, Westhill.

Sturgeon’s US trip wastes public cash

Sir, – The first minister is on a trip to the USA with the objective “to underline Scotland’s key interests in global issues”.

Apparently to this end she will be making a speech at the Brookings Institute think-tank in Washington.

In addition, the justification for this trip states that Scotland’s global contribution would be significantly enhanced with the powers of independence rather than devolution, and the Scottish Government’s prospectus for enhanced international relations as an independent state will be published in the run-up to the independence referendum.

What a load of servile, pretentious nonsense.

In the current international circumstances the Scottish public do not support a vote for independence. There are far more major issues to be addressed by the incumbents of Holyrood, especially in the constituency of the first minister who seems to have ignored major agendas in the area of her responsibility.

Of course, with such international “embassies” the ulterior motive could be to establish one in Washington DC, of course unmanned and at a high rental value in the US capital.

It would also be interesting to ascertain what kind of entourage the first minister will take to the “land of the free”, all at business class air travel and five-star hotels, again at taxpayers’ expense.

An absolute unadulterated, irrelevant waste of public funds.

John Reid, Regent Court, Keith.

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