Friday, 12 November 2010

A degree in abseiling?

There was a report last night about students who were training in the art of what looked like abseiling. One interviewee looked so happy as he told us how much he was enjoying the course while hanging upside down. It seems that there is a demand for these artists and the good news for this student, he told us with his beaming upside down smile, is that he would get a degree too.

There may be a demand for vertical dancing and it may be very entertaining too. My problem is that I don't understand how the artistic demands of a course like this leads to a degree. It may be that there is a lot of academic research into the physiological changes occuring while dancing near the ceiling, but why is it part of a course designed to produce artists?

It is often quoted that the UK produces more photographers per year than the number of professional photographers in Europe. Education is never wasted but some academic training is more useful than others. In the seventies I was amazed that we had a degree in what is normally seen as a practical skill, brewing. If we could redefine what is meant by an academic degree then we may be able to afford to give grants to those who are following such courses and others could get paid while they train for skills like plumbing.

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  1. I'm a bit late coming to your posting but I agree that the spread of degrees into vocational areas needs questioned. Like you I suspect, I was educated at the start of the expansion of universities in the 1960's (indeed I went to Lancaster in 1966 and lived in Morecambe for the 3 years I was there). We've followed the American model of tertiary education rather than the more sensible German approach which sets vocational education apart from what I suppose would be academic pursuits but as you say enables payment of those following them. Indeed where I worked the engineers were largely obtained from thick sandwich courses over 5 years with an HND linked to their work. This has largely disappeared regrettably. The trouble is that I can't see we can turn back the clock because having a degree no matter how vocational the subject is valued by both the holders and employers.

  2. You are welcome to comment at any time Richard. We do have a problem turning the clock back because there are so many people with vested interests in keeping the status quo. In fact they will be fighting to expande and secure their position in the academic hierarchy. I wonder how employers value degrees if everyone has one.

  3. They don't per se which is why the class of degree is drifting upwards to the effect that a third when I graduated is now close to being a 2.1 and the temptation is to go for Masters degrees to add value. I was in Personnel before retiral and I looked for the quality in thinking and reasoning capacity not a degree per se.