Masters for less than high-flyers

Business school says poor degree results are no bar to students applying for postgraduate study

June 18, 2009

"If you achieve a third class or unclassified degree it's NOT the end of the road," reads a poster displayed at the University of Central Lancashire.

It then invites graduates with disappointing degree results to consider taking an MSc and postgraduate diploma in global management at Lancashire Business School.

"Put yourself at the front of the job queue with a postgraduate qualification," it says.

The poster, which appears at a time of increased scrutiny of standards in higher education, has drawn criticism from some quarters.

One university academic wrote to Times Higher Education to draw attention to the poster, claiming that the business school's "inclusivity" agenda had led to a situation where "you may be thick as a brick, but we'll still let you in".

"Who's going to employ someone with a Mickey Mouse qualification like this?" the member of staff said.

Phil Willis - the Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee, which is investigating claims of dumbing down in the sector - described the poster as "highly questionable", and not helping to quell the "emerging concern over the quality of UK higher education".

"Students entering masters programmes should be able to demonstrate high-quality undergraduate performance and an ability to study at an even higher level," he said. "Using masters programmes for any other purpose simply devalues the brand.

"At a time when UK universities are facing ever stiffer competition from universities around the globe, protecting our reputation for high standards and quality outcomes is absolutely crucial."

The university's website appears to advertise far stricter entrance requirements for the course than the poster suggests, citing "a recognised British honours degree to a good standard, or its equivalent" as a minimum standard for study.

A spokesman for Uclan said: "The postgraduate diploma in global management has been designed to provide students who have successfully achieved a bachelors degree with an opportunity to develop their knowledge and academic skills to a standard that may enable them to study at masters level."

He said that students without a good first degree were allowed on to the masters course only once they had successfully passed a one-year diploma.

"Students enrolling on this course do not enter a masters degree directly but study for a postgraduate diploma over one academic year," he said.

"If they are successful, this may lead to a one-year masters degree."

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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