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.