Re: New universities
I totally agree about your comments about 'New' Universities/Polytechnics.I think that giving them the option of becoming Universities was the worst thing that could possibly have happened to the Polytechnic sector.
I agree that most Poly's had a big chip on their collective shoulders, but I worked in Newcastle Polytechnic for 6 years, and I met people there who knew what the Poly's were for, and understood how to represent them. But I remember at the time how surprised the ministers were that all the Polytechnics decided to convert when given the chance.
Older established Universities are academic. They turn out people with a largely theoretical slant on most science and technology subjects. Poly's were set up to be practical skills based. They could take students and equip them to take on high-skill practical work. You could see them as a alternative to business led apprenticeships, leading to BTEC HNC and HND qualifications. Both of these were valuable but different facets of the education system in the UK.
Generally, academically orientated students with the highest 'A' level results (in the days when 'A' levels could be used to differentiate between students) gravitated to Universities, those with adequate results could go to Poly, and still get highly useful qualifications, just not necessarily degrees.
But there was also a difference in teaching methodologies.
'Old' Universities were more likely to drop the student in at the deep end with comparatively little support, and if they sank, threw them out. Those who swam (who were self-motivated and with sufficient discipline to actually get the work handed in and pass the exams despite the distractions), when they graduated, an employer knew that they could resist the temptations of student life, and still get the job done.
Polytechnics, on the other hand, used to offer better support to the students. The staff-to-student ratio was higher, and there was more emphasis on making sure that the students were coping (at least this is was what I saw at Newcastle). This meant that Poly's were a better bet for kids who were still in the 'school' mindset.
In the Computer Studies area, Newcastle Poly. offered HMC and HND courses in Computer Studies, but not a degree, which was catered for by Newcastle University. The one computing degree course offered by the Poly was a business orientated degree, specialising in COBOL as the programming language (we're talking 1980's here), with business oriented methodologies, system analysis and case studies, together with crossover courses from Business Studies so that the students would have an understanding of Data Processing and where it fitted in to a business.
The HNC and HND CS courses turned out people who's skills meant they knew enough about computer systems so they could program effectively, but had a less deep understanding of the fundamentals of a computer than their University contemporaries.
With the generally useless 2-year 'foundation' degrees replacing many of the BTEC qualifications, I really don't know what the split is now, and I think that employers have similar lack of understanding.