Flexibility? It’s already here

March 12, 2015

I was interested to read “Flexible study emerges as cross-party concern” (News, 5 March), but, sadly, my interest was more in the evident chasm between the understanding of politicians and what actually happens in higher education.

Ministers do not need to travel abroad to find flexible and accelerated degrees. They exist in the UK, as does the “idea of allowing students to transfer academic credits between universities” and “earn while you learn”, and they have existed for nearly 30 years.

At my university, Chester, students can design their own curriculum, tailor their degree award title to their needs and proceed, within reason, at their own pace. We have offered such flexibility since 1996 and we are not the only ones. UK universities are widely admired for their pioneering approach to flexible learning but, as is so often the case, good ideas receive little recognition or backing.

It is difficult to know where politicians get their information from but the default seems to be from what is happening in research-intensive universities and those that are overseas, usually in the US.

If our politicians really want to know what is possible in modern higher education then they need look no further than the many examples in the UK of flexible, work-based learning.

Jon Talbot
Senior lecturer, University of Chester

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