Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Enhancing their curriculum - two HEIs to watch?

I found two articles in today's Education Guardian interesting.

"Brave new curriculum" by Kirsty Scott is about Aberdeen University's overhaul of their curriculum in an attempt to break into the world's top 100 universities (it is currently placed 129).

They had a major consultation - with industry, politicians, students, parents and staff to discover exactly what constitutes an ideal graduate.  This is apparently someone who is  "intellectually flexible", a critical thinker and a team player; someone who could see their discipline in a wider context; someone who was, above all, employable.

Aberdeen took its lead from the University of Melbourne (29 in top 100), which initiated a radical restructuring exercise in 2007 to broaden out its undergraduate curriculum; what became known as the Melbourne model. Harvard, Hong Kong and Yale have all undergone similar reforms. Instead of tearing up the syllabus as Melbourne did, the Aberdeen has made modifications - keeping its traditional four-year degree, but alongside their core discipline, new students will be required to study at least one course each year in topics including risk in society, science and the media, the health and wealth of nations, and sustainability. They can also choose sustained study programmes that will run parallel to their main subject, in languages, science or business.

There are also flexible entry and exit points have been introduced for students, allowing them to take a break in a course, or leave with some form of qualification if they don't finish their degree. Other aspects include wider opportunities for placements, overseas and voluntary work which all appear as credits on a graduate transcript. ­Student support services have been streamlined to make them more accessible.

Others to watch include the universities of Manchester and Southampton, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and Glasgow School of Art.
There is also a piece by Simon Roodhouse, director of HE@Work at Middlesex University on "Embracing the employer-led degree". It is essentially a plug for Middlesex University's work based learning programmes, apparently a 1000+ learners with clients that include Marks and Spencers and Dell. Still, claims of a 10 -15% saving when compared to traditional on-campus courses are compelling.