Four-year degree courses have been developed by many university science and engineering departments for a variety of reasons. These include: the need for more content , particularly complementary studies such as communication skills with a measure of remedial work to cope with students' mathematical capabilities.
The professional institutions have embraced these enhanced degree courses and suggest that a student wishing to do a research degree should have completed a four-year first degree course or, for future professional chartered engineers, the preferred route of training should be via a four year engineering degree. However, little thought seems to have been given to the financial implications for the student.
The reduction in value of the student grant, the loans scheme and other factors have placed many students in real financial difficulties. One of my tutees has told me that he doubts that he will return in October to complete the final year of our three-year degree because he has used his loan entitlement and would not be able to live on his grant alone. I am concerned that we are, unintentionally, setting up a system of qualifications that only the well-heeled will afford.
D. P. Almond
School of Materials Science