Streamline degrees

December 20, 2002

Kevin Malone is right: it takes more than six to 12 months to produce a musician, a dancer or a doctor, indeed far more than three or four years of graduate study (Letters, THES, December 13). But how many weeks are they taught and how long do they study in a week?

My experience of talking with students of computing science, pure science, history, social science and other subjects is that they are taught less than half a calendar year and spend less than half a working week at their studies. About 25 per cent of their available time, compared with a normal working week or year, is spent at their studies. The other 75 per cent is socialising and working at naff jobs.

Why? Because it suits the system - a system that now seeks to demand huge sums of money rather than reform itself. In the 1970s, this was called restrictive practices. The truth is that this education-delivery model suits academia and is not, and has never been, planned to deliver a quality education at an appropriate-to-the-student pace.

We can pretend that it is not coming, but some North American universities offer perfectly respectable BSc computing science degrees to mature students in 12 months.

The demand is there. Educationally it works. With an appropriate fee structure, it financially benefits universities, students, government, academics and employers.

If Malone cannot deliver the academic content of his degree programme in 44 weeks of 40 hours of studies, there are others who probably could. Now that is the danger for UK academia.

John N. Sutherland
Reader in curriculum development
University of Abertay Dundee

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