And are they the right kind of courses? Or should we be following Melbourne’s example?
New students at Melbourne University, the country’s second oldest, will, from January, start on one of just six broad-based degrees, in arts, bioscience, commerce, environments, music and science, rather than what used to be more than 90 courses.
Amazed that they only had 90 in the first place…
Law, medicine, education, nursing and other professionally-oriented courses at Melbourne will soon become graduate school entry only. “We are presuming that by the time students get to the third year, they can make an infinitely more informed choice than they could ever make from school,” says Davis.
But doesn’t this disadvantage students who want to pursue such routes? Isn’t it more of an argument for a broad based first year rather than a whole degree?
In Melbourne, says Davis, the changes “will encourage undergraduates to do subjects outside their degree and experiment in other bits of their life they find interesting” – a quarter of the undergraduate course must be spent following a subject from another degree field. New programmes include a period of study abroad, online study with an overseas “partner” university, a period of work experience and a research project linked, for instance, to humanitarian or environmental aims.
At one level this could seem quite radical. Looked at another way, you could argue that this is all pretty feasible at present (albeit not in a compulsory way) at Nottingham.
Some university leaders here are also starting to ask whether the existing regime allows undergraduates to enjoy a broad education. Howard Davies, director of the London School of Economics, accuses the government of talking about all universities as if they were vocational training institutes. “There is this instrumentalist language, as if all we should be doing here is going through Sandy Leitch’s report [on skills and the global economy] and identifying the need for more hairdressers and deciding to fill that. I think Leitch has done a great job … but university education is not like that. When I talk to employers they don’t particularly want to get involved in designing our courses.”
Aha – now this is a slightly different argument but extremely interesting and goes to the heart of what is a University for (to be continued).
See the Guardian for the full story