After years of debate on the academic year, pilot summer extension programmes are to begin in 1996.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England agreed at a meeting this week to allot Pounds 9 million over the next two years to summer semesters at Liverpool John Moores University, Luton University and La Sainte Union College of Higher Education, Southampton. They were chosen from around ten applicants, predominantly from the former polytechnics and the college sector, but including one college of London University.
Bahram Bekhradnia, policy director at HEFCE, said the money would cover the extra costs of running summer semesters. He emphasised that the pilot programmes were not seen as a means of shortening the length of degree courses. "While some students will go through faster, it is also a means of accommodating more students," he said.
Applicants were required to show that the quality of teaching and learning offered would be the same in the summer semester as during the rest of the year. The circular inviting bids emphasised the potential benefits to part-timers and those not affected by consolidation.
The programmes stem from the Flowers committee on the academic year, which reported in 1993. There has been some scepticism among HEFCE members about the value of extension pilots. But the programmes were endorsed by a sub-committee chaired by David Johns, vice chancellor of Bradford University. He said: "The three-semester year has inspired an impressive range of interesting and innovative proposals. Even those institutions who have not been chosen should benefit from the stimulus this has provided."