Grow up

19 Apr

Policymakers are flying the ‘degree in two years’ kite again. How sensible in the context of expanding higher education and growing student debt. Once again I disagree with the unions, though you can see why vested interests would support the status quo. Lose a year’s student fees? Lose a long, student-free summer for research and recuperation?

We could teach a degree course in two years, but can school leavers grow up in this space of time? In reality, the age-to-independence has been growing higher and higher over the last century. From 14 to about 22 and rising.

Take Emma Knight as a case. She impressed me as a highly competent first year student when I started this job early in 2003. She’s now completing her degree having taken a year’s work experience at BMW as part of the course. I now learn from her contribution to our textbook (Exploring Public Relations, p49) that she’d been working in sales for two years before deciding that her future lay in public relations, and that a good education was a positive decision to help her get there. I don’t know what age she is now, but two years in sales, one year at BMW and a three year degree course add up to at least six years since school. She’s good; she’ll go far (remember the name). But she’s come much farther than most school leavers and most students. Two year PR degrees, anyone?

5 Responses to “Grow up”

  1. Chloe Chaplin 20/04/2006 at 12:30 pm #

    I think a 2 year degree course, like everything, has its good points and its bad points.
    After nearly completing my first year at university, I feel that it may have been possible to fit more in. It does need to be remembered, however, that like my PR course, many are now vocational courses which require students to carry out work experience. 3 or 4 years at university would give students much more opportunity to grow and develop skills both academically and vocationally.
    Most courses could be completed in 2 years, but as you said, would this give us time to grow up or just hurry us into something which we are not entirely ready for?

  2. Heather Smith 25/04/2006 at 9:22 pm #

    Your point, that someone with six years of ‘post-school experience’ is better suited to the world of PR appears to make an argument for more mature students to study the subject.
    In order to do that, I believe that more flexible degree courses tailored to the needs, (and financial pressures) of mature students should be considered.
    As a mature student with a mortgage and children who views the long breaks between
    academic years and semesters with dismay, I would be all for a shorter and more intensive degree course. I don’t think that the shortening of courses would necessarily rule out work experience.
    IMO a creative approach to needs of both camps needs to be adopted.

  3. Richard Bailey 26/04/2006 at 10:47 am #

    Heather – I am indeed making a case for mature students to study public relations. I would guess that your commitment (mortgage, children) better prepares you for study and work, though in some circumstances it can work against you.
    We do think we’re being flexible in our teaching. There are a range of full-time and part-time courses on offer, and we and Marjon teach the CIPR professional courses, taught in block release within one year and most suitable for those already in PR roles.

  4. Heather Smith 27/04/2006 at 12:47 am #

    Richard – Perhaps ‘flexible’ was the wrong word. What I am suggesting is that a more diverse range of degree courses, which could include a two year option, should be made available to all students. I understand that a private UK university already currently offers two year degree courses which are completely indiscernable from the three year ‘proper’ courses
    I believe that with increased student debt and people delaying the decision to study due to these financial considerations, Universities and colleges will have to consider offering these courses.
    IMO three year degrees with four month Summer holidays just won’t wash in the new ‘top-up fee’ age. Universities and colleges will be forced to respond accordingly.

  5. Emma Knight 14/05/2006 at 2:47 pm #

    Two-year degree courses.
    In the top-up fee age, I understand that three/four year degree courses will be a concern for many students. I am no stranger to debt as my friends will vouch.
    However, in my opinion, University is a time for making friends, building relationships, growing as a person and having fun. I am vastly different to the person I was when I moved to Leeds in 2002 and my fourth and final year has been by far my best.
    I have firm friendships, with other PRs, students and professionals, that will soon be heading up their own PR departments.
    Had I not spent four years ‘growing-up’ with these people, or had I not shared so many varied experiences with them, ‘can I have a job please?’ is not a question I would have been able to ask so many people, so easily.
    Two year condensed courses offer advantages, clearly, but they eliminate the opportunity for substantial summer placements, something I believe is crucial for future emloyement. They imply that there will be unrelenting pressure on students to complete their academic work, and perhaps most worringly they threaten the opportuntiy of making so many firm friends.
    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that is subtly mentioned in this comment. You all know who you are.

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