Monday, 5 September 2011

Scotland's Degree Courses

Universities are big business in the UK and globally. Selling the dream that an education will bring financial rewards beyond belief is a skill commonly shown by university PR departments and thousands of people fall for it.  The 'big' names have little need to advertise because their histories do the talking, but new universities have little or no history and require a more innovative marketing ploy.

Telford College in Edinburgh, founded in 1968 and not to be confused with Telford College, Oakengates, Shropshire, is offering cut-price honours degree courses.  Students who take a two year vocational HND qualification can upgrade to an honours degree after completing just one further year of study.

The course are also cheaper because the cost of an HND us much lower than a degree course, so students only have to pay higher fees for the final year of study.

Telford College will be tying up with Northumbria and Cumbria universities which would see courses developed in events and hospitality management, travel and tourism, creative industries and early learning. The shorter courses have been made possible under these partnerships with English universities - where a degree takes three years instead of four in Scotland.

Some years ago those who studied for an HND were either students who hadn't quite achieved good enough higher results to be admitted directly onto a degree course or those who had decided they preferred to enter the workplace and study for an HND in their own time.  Now HNDs are to be offered to all as they are cheaper.

This addresses an issue which should have been resolved some years ago.  Not all degree courses require full-time student attendance for four years. Some courses could quite easily be studied in three or even two years, but the higher education authorities refuse to debate this - possibly because they see their income radically reducing.  In England too their must be courses which could easily be condensed into two years rather than three.

I would like to think this system would be beneficial students, universities and the Scottish taxpayer but I am concerned about the value of the degree when its delivery appears to involve a fair amount of input from the English university system. It could be argued that is of no consequence because, for example, a degree in medicine from Dundee University can involve a period of on-job training in English hospitals.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, says 'already nearly one in 10 entrants to Scottish universities skip the first or second year having successfully completed an HND' so Telford College is not the first to provide 3 year degree courses but they are the first to associate them with English universities.

Will the achievement of a degree through the HND system be the way forward? Given the cost of a standard degree at an English university for a Scot, it could well be the answer. Will it encourage English students here?

I'm all for flexible learning and if this also keeps costs sensible it should be a winner, but our universities do need to face up to the fact that not only these few courses, but many others, could easily be reduced to three years. It's ludicrous that the likes of tourism and hospitality courses are currently programmed for the same length of study as the sciences and engineering - to name but a few.

If Switzerland can offer a globally recognised qualification in tourism and hospitality - through its excellent hotel schools - for one year of study, surely we should be looking to achieve such excellence for similar course and within a similar time frame.



Grogipher said...

It's not really anything new, degree courses have been run in this way for some time (although obviously the teaming up with an English Uni is a first).

When I did my first degree, it was explained quite fully that first year was an HNC, second year was an HND, third year was a degree and fourth year was your honours. Indeed, students who dropped out were given the highest award they had achieved, and conversely those with the given awards were allowed to enter the degree pathway further up the chain - I didn't do first year, for example. Might explain things better than I can though?

JRB said...

(Once again I find myself falling into the predictable mould of the ‘grumpy old bloke’ who hankers after the halcyon ‘good old days’.)

Without question or argument education is vitally important. What is equally important is how that education is provided.

I believe that this generation of adults, and in this I include myself, has badly let down the next generation.

I have to question the current belief that only a university education with a degree in ‘something or other’ will provide the keys to the golden city.
Far too many young graduates in ‘something or other’ are finding that the employment opportunities that they believed would be waiting for them, are just not there.
Society does not need any more graduates in ‘something or other’, but yet the universities keep churning them out.

And what of these universities?
From a few outstanding and internationally acclaimed universities there has burgeoned in Scotland a plethora of former colleges offering an ever widening array of quick-fix degrees in ‘something or other’.

It would be better if they were a first class technical college rather than a second class university.

Edward Spalton said...

Switzerland also offers excellent technical course in animal feed and flour milling technology. With benefit of hindsight now I have retired, I rather wish I had been able to take a year off to complete one. It should not have been too difficult as I already speak German.

I know one young lady who comes from a working class family which doesn't believe in debt. She is doing her degree through the Open University whilst keeping herself with a part time job in catering. She's good at that so she often works more or less full-time hours. After two years of her course, she is at the same point she would have been, working full time at university.

I understand that the private University of Buckingham gets its students through the equivalent of a three year degree course in two years.

subrosa said...

You explained it very well Grogipher. Yes that's the way it went once NVQ/SVQs were introduced for some courses but not all.

In certain engineering courses, for example, if a student doesn't complete the four year course then no award is given for that achieved to date. I doubt if that would work in medicine either but I'm not so sure about that area.

subrosa said...

JRB, you know my opinion is similar to yours.

These colleges turned universities should offer more part-time courses. Locally here neither of the colleges offer vocational evening classes. All they offer are leisure/hobby classes with the odd language thrown in.

Therefore, anyone who is in work and wishes to improve their education has no where to turn other than a full-time course or one which is part of a government scheme and offers day release.

Some employers, understandably, want their employee on site for 5 days a week.

subrosa said...

Edward, now I didn't know that. :) I studied at a Swiss hotel school (with my school German being of little use) but all the staff were most helpful as they spoke English when I had difficulties. Best way to learn a language.

Is an OU degree given the same recognition as one from the elite universities though? Sadly I think not but I certainly enjoyed doing mine.

I'll look into the U of B (obviously a newly created university).

Dave H said...

courses developed in events and hospitality management, travel and tourism, creative industries and early learning.

Therein lies the problem with higher education today. How many people do we actually need with degrees in those subjects? Why not find creative ways to offer useful degrees such as engineering or medicine, that will actually generate useful income instead of courses that will provide graduates with a practical course in debt management without a good income stream.

subrosa said...

Only those who can't think of what to 'study' do these course Dave and I would take to task anyone in the Scottish education system to wanted to deny that.

'Hospitality and tourism' are courses developed - very much over developed - from catering qualifications. I could go on but I won't.

Related Posts with Thumbnails