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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A degree of inspiration

Good news today that Mandelson's proposed cuts to the higher education sector may force degree-awarding institutions (I won't call them all universities) to churn students through their first degree in two years.

For many undergraduates, their first year these days is taken up with bringing them up to the old 'A' level standards. Under Mandelson's proposals, this would restrict degree-level teaching to just a year before graduation. For the bulk of students, this seems fine to me; a bachelor's degree is regarded in industry these days as about the equivalent of the old 'A' levels, students would suffer only two years of debt rather than three and we would reap the benefits of the most mediocre of our higher learning institutions slimming down as a result.

For exceptional students, and for good schools and sixth-form colleges, this could also offer substantial advantages. Imagine if good students could complete three good 'A' levels in a year, and that their schools or sixth form colleges were newly empowered to confer bachelors' degrees after a further two years study. Costs would be low, students could in many cases continue to live at home, and at nineteen would have their first degree. Those who then wanted to work could do so a year early unencumbered by debt, whilst those with a taste for academe could then enrol at proper universities for their Masters' or other higher degree.

The Conservatives should adopt Mandelson's initiative immediately.


Weekend Yachtsman said...

"students could in many cases continue to live at home, and at nineteen would have their first degree"

Whilst remaining children in all important respects.

I am not at all sure this is a good thing.

Unless you subscribe to the "Degree-Factory" theory of University, of course.

Letters From A Tory said...

What the Conservatives should do is stop interfering in university funding and drop any opposition to raising top-up fees.

University funding should come from individuals, not the general taxpayers' pot.

Ed P said...

GCSE-type degrees? The attack on excellence continues, justified by the NuLab desire for equal opportunity, which in practice means dumbing down.
A-levels have been "successfully" devalued, so now these swine are gunning for degrees. All the hard work of previous generations means nothing to these destructive morons - your degree is now worth less.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Actually Ed, my degree is pre-dumbing down and is not worth less.

People look at the date, and the University it came from, and they know.

Anonymous said...

Education, education, education - yeah right :(

Education should be freely available to all ages at all stages - yeah right.

Consigned to the burgeoning rubbish pile of former Labour promises. Another step down the road to 3rd world.

Coney Island

Anonymous said...

University funding should come from individuals, not the general taxpayers' pot.

You are misnamed. You should be 'Letters from a Zanu-Lab Comrade'. Tories are meant to stand for fairness, merit, self-improvement and opportunity; that's why the Tories introduced free university entry based on merit in the first place.

As for two year degrees, what a ridiculous idea. Degrees have been dumbed down steady for the last ten years or so. The solution is to improve them by returning to degree-teaching that actually requires thought and effort; the solution is certainly not to dumb down further nor is it crystallise Labour's failed policies by creating these imbecilic A-Level degrees that are clearly meant to use universities to do the teaching which schools are failing to do.

Calfy said...

I went to a tutorial college and so I know plenty of others who have already got or are getting their 3 good A levels in one year. What horrifies moany people about the idea is that I must have been taught solely to the exam. but in the subjects that I did (history, classical Greek and English literature) we spent lots of time in class thoroughly exploring ideas and having intellectual discussions.
Of course, I know that I was fortunate in having brilliant and inspired teachers and a very small class size, but I'd like to see my experience extended throughout the country. It has always baffled me that people trying to make things more fair either want the best brought down to a low level or themselves elevated higher, rather than at least trying to get everybody to the level of the best.
More schools offer 'A'-levels in a year now than they did three years ago, when I started looking into it, which I consider very positive for students like me who quite frankly don't want to waste that extra year of their life in studying for something so devalued.

English Pensioner said...

I did my education the old fashioned way, through Technical Colleges to Higher National+ standard to gain my professional qualifications.
I was regretting the fact that I had never attended University when talking to a Professor of Mathematics at a well known University, and he suggested that I'd have no trouble in gaining a Maths degree, all I'd need to do was a bit of revision - would I like to join as a mature student.
As far as I'm concerned, if that is the level of a maths degree these days, I simply wouldn't be interested!