Government Review could see “radical” changes to degrees

The Higher Education Secretary, John Denham, has launched a review into University funding ahead of next year’s decision on whether to raise the cap on tuition fees. The Government is considering proposals that could see the traditional academic year removed to suit part time students that wish to study all year round, employers directly funding degrees and universities forced to reveal how they benefit their students.

Mr. Denham told _The Observer_ newspaper that “There is going to need to be a greater flexibility in the way we deliver higher education”.

He added “the ability to study flexibly, which more often than not will mean part time; to study at more than one institution; to be accredited for what you learn in the workplace as well as what you learn in a university; all of these things will become more and more common”.

Such proposals are more likely to be geared more towards Arts subjects. “If you take a discipline such as pure maths, where people have often done their best research before they’re 25, you are probably not going to spend 15 years doing a part-time degree. But I could imagine some subjects, some arts subjects, might well lend themselves to more variable forms of learning” Mr. Denham told _The Observer_.

Another proposal that is being considered is the possibility of introducing an American-style system of credits for students. This would mean that students that “drop out” over the course of their time at University would be able to use these credits later if they decided to take up their course once again.

The Education Officer of the Students’ Union, Mohammed Surve, said that any new proposals would need to have a great deal of student input given that members of the Government are “removed” from the education process however he did agree that degrees were in need of an overhaul. Surve further refuted claims made about grade inflation. “I am against the idea that grade inflation exists…students are getting more 2:1s and 1s because they deserve it”.

The University of Warwick’s Press and Media Relations Manager, Peter Dunn, further stated that he believed the University would be unaffected by such proposals. “This may be aimed at places in which the academic staff are not researching in the summer and the facilities are perhaps idle unlike Warwick where our staff are leading researchers and the University campus is used in the summer for academic and other conferences to raise more revenue so we can provide the very best teaching and research facilities.”

The increasing focus that has been placed upon university funding has been spurred on by a series of papers that have been published in recent months by some leading academics. The high level of part-time students that are now enrolling at university coupled with an economic slowdown has made some worry that traditional academic teaching is being eroded.

With the cost of teaching rising faster than inflation and greater investment needed in order to combat the rising educational development of industralising economies across Asia, pressure is mounting on the Government to find new ways to fund universities and organise courses to give maximum value for money.


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