In Defence of the 3 year degree course

Every so often someone kicks off a debate about changing University degree courses. The premise is that a year degree is inefficient and costly.  There are long holidays and short terms with not a lot of classroom contact.  Why not compress a degree into 2 years with short holidays?  It’s not a new idea, in fact, the University of Buckingham proudly advertises that it has been doing this for years.  It’s an idea that is doing the rounds again with the current Higher Education minister, Jo Johnston pushing it.

As someone with an interest in training and teaching I thought I’d just drop in a few thoughts on this – a departure maybe from our usual content but it does have links.

Here’s my defence of the traditional degree

  1. The role of Universities (and seminaries) is not just about classroom teaching with students.  Lecturers are also involved in research and Universities in hosting conferences. Yes, those conferences -and some of the research also have a commercial dimension, raising revenue, but if that helps subsidise the cost of fees that’s a good thing.
  2. Similarly, for students, it isn’t just about classroom time but about research and reading.  You are learning to find things out for yourself. You are being encouraged to gain a depth of insight and enjoyment of your chosen subject.
  3. To be sure, University education has become increasingly expensive but is that down to the length of degrees or other factors including government policy of both expanding Higher education provision and putting the burden increasingly more narrowly onto the students themselves? This has been a policy over 30 years.
  4. Of course, some students may idle away their spare time but for many, this is part of the learning process. For me, as an 18-21 year old, those long summer vacations were spent working in various factories and warehouses. As well as earning a bit of spare cash, it was an invaluable lesson and an opportunity I wouldn’t get again. It meant that when I worked as a Manufacturing Engineer and then an Operations Manager that I had some experience of the shop floor and how management decisions were often felt by those at the coal-face.
  5. You grow up quite a bit between 18 and 21.  It’s not for nothing that traditionally, 21 was the coming of age in England.  Three years gives you time to mature in your thinking and ideas.  Education is like a good meal, to be savoured and enjoyed, not rushed.

This has implications for Theological training.  If you see your training as a hurdle to jump over in order to get a recognised qualification, or even as a means to cram your head with enough information to be able to preach effectively, then you will want to get it over and done with as quickly as possible,

However, good training is about formation as well as information. That takes time and isn’t to be rushed. It’s why for us, the GDip programme is one part of the jigsaw but we see the #TrainBC programme as being more than that.  Indeed, our desire when we train people is to see them develop an appetite for life long learning.

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