Longer, not shorter

November 7, 1997

FOR THE benefit of students dedicated to a career in science/engineering and whose future career aspirations extend beyond the United Kingdom, I would suggest that more attention be given to the standing of British education in the world in The THES.

A number of years ago, the Dutch education minister reduced the length of first degrees to four years. There was an immediate outcry. Subsequently, the technical universities persuaded the minister that five years was a minimum for an engineering degree. The principal argument was that, with the exception of the UK, the standard required of engineers in the rest of Europe demanded such a period of study. The prevailing view in The Netherlands is that science/engineering degrees should become or remain longer, rather than shorter.

Recent developments in UK higher education have raised doubts on this side of the channel about the quality of British graduates. Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer's suggestion of a two-plus-two degree will only serve to fuel those doubts.

Roland Backhouse Helmond, The Netherlands

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