Classified misinformation

July 19, 1996

There is no doubt that the classified honours degree system should be reformed. (THES, July 5) However the idea that the three institutions surveyed by the Higher Education Quality Council is representative must surely be questioned. The fact that only four subject areas were examined should also be questioned.

I graduated with an "unclassed" ordinary degree from the University of Edinburgh, in the biological sciences. I am now completing a PhD in philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, and am teaching English in Kuwait as a means of funding my research.

Had I taken my ordinary degree as the definitive view of my ability I would not have gone on to do postgraduate research. The traditional method of testing a student's ability, against the clock under exam conditions, is purely a test of memory. Many more deserve the opportunity of postgraduate research.

I have fought a battle against serious mental illness during both my BSc and PhD, and feel I have been unfairly penalised. Perhaps if my illness had been taken into consideration it might not have been quite such a battle to go on to do postgraduate research.

Postgraduate research ought to be the norm rather than the exception. A maximum of four years for an undergraduate degree is far too short.

Kenneth Wilson Dalkeith Road Edinburgh

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