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Better Products: The Simple Way For Companies To Compete

In "The downside of higher productivity" (European Business, Feb. 7), Jack Ewing demonstrates how current global concepts of increased competitiveness are dictated to democratically elected governments by nondemocratic multinationals such as Nestl? (NSRGY). It seems the entire point of his treatise supports corporate self-regulation. At what cost? In a Harvard University- or Massachusetts Institute of Technology-dominated world -- or a standardized corporate culture of elites -- rewards for average achievement would evaporate.

Productivity measures in a modern, globalized world should include stability and quality of customer/supplier relationships, social corporate responsibility, cross-cultural and union considerations. Should companies not learn how to compete more effectively simply by turning out better products or services? Talk to the workers about it, if there are still any left!

Daniel Costello

Visiting Professor

Kwandong University

Gangwon Province, South Korea

In response to the Feb. 14 Readers Report letter from Luca Arrigoni in Milan regarding "Korea's LG" (Asian Edition Cover Story, Jan. 24): When CEO Kim Ssang Su made the remark that he wants "LG to be a tough place to work," what he meant was that LG Electronics provides a challenging internal work environment for all its employees, giving them an opportunity to excel, and they are rewarded accordingly. These working conditions produce highly skilled and highly sought-after LGE employees. This does not have any direct correlation, however, with the public perception of LG Electronics -- a truly responsible corporate citizen whose theme is "life's good" -- where our goal is to improve the quality of life for all using our products.

Leon Sharp

Global PR Manager

LG Electronics Inc.


"The reeducation of Oxford" (European Business, Feb. 14), on Oxford University's finances, omits its strategic error to cut down -- unlike Cambridge -- on unprofitable British undergraduates and replace them with lucrative non-European students. Will unprofitable British postgraduates be next?

The alleged cost of teaching Oxford undergraduates, $37,000 a year according to Oxford's recent strategy report, is astronomical because it includes one-to-one (or two-to-one) tutorials and, I suspect, a disproportionate share of administrative costs that have to be allocated between teaching and research. At most British universities, the pure teaching cost, excluding research, is estimated at $10,000 for humanities, $20,000 for laboratory-based sciences. Apart from Cambridge, no other universities offer undergraduates one-to-one tutorials. Seminars of seven to eight people would not sit easily with the traditional autonomy and rivalry of Oxford and Cambridge colleges. But they could then afford, if they wished, to educate more British -- or other -- undergraduates without significant loss of quality.

Joseph Palley

Richmond, Surrey, England

Here are my recommendations for "The reeducation of Oxford," based on my experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student in chemistry in the period 1955-62: Eliminate the expensive tutorials and focus more on the quality of research instruction. Individual tutorials, which are the pride of the Oxbridge undergraduate system, can be wonderful learning experiences, but only if they are interactive. We were just lectured to -- there was never discussion. Our weekly essays were returned without comments or grades -- had they even been read?

I stayed on to do research for a doctorate. Not once did we have a group meeting to discuss our work or meet with other groups at Oxford doing related work, even though we were aware of such groups. I was never asked to give a presentation of my work. There was no attempt to introduce us to the concept of how our work impinged on related fields, and it is across these interdisciplinary boundaries that many of the greatest advances are made. Not once did my research adviser show any interest in what career I was planning.

Meurig W. Williams

Bradenton, Fla.

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