A-Z of Degrees

Our weekly series designed to help you pick the right degree. This week: Education
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What do you come out with? BA or BEd if you're training to be a teacher straight from school; a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education), if you're starting out from university.

Why do it? Because you want to be a teacher, dope. Or you fancy becoming an educational psychologist which means training as a teacher first. Or, hey, you wake up one day and decide your big ambition is to work for a local education authority.

What's it about? At Britain's flagship Institute of Education in London you can do a PGCE in primary, secondary or further education. At the University of East Anglia you can do a primary or secondary PGCE. At Northumbria you can take a three-year BA in primary teacher training or a PGCE in primary or secondary. The BA covers the core subjects of English, maths, science and ICT (information and communication technology). You will gain experience teaching in a school in these subjects and you'll also cover all the other subjects in the primary curriculum to a lesser extent. At Manchester Metropolitan you can take a BA at the Crewe campus or a BEd at the Didsbury campus. Canterbury Christ Church offers a BA in primary education and PGCEs in primary and secondary.

How long is a degree? One or two years as a PGCE, three or four years as a BA or BEd.

What are the students like? Enthusiastic, despite teachers' pay and status problems, and flexible. There's barely been a year since the 1980s when teacher education hasn't been changed by the Government. Many courses have a big age range. Most primary courses are female dominated: at Northumbria only 10 per cent on the primary BA are men. PGCE students have to work very hard and be professional. They can't slope around hairy and unwashed like undergraduates.

How is it packaged? The PGCEs have no exams; all are assessed in one way or another. Northumbria has no exams at all. Students are on a rolling programme of assessed tasks. BEd students at Manchester Met have some exams.

How cool is it? Not. But the Government is trying to rectify this by offering a juicy carrot of £6,000 to PGCE students. Should make teaching more popular, if not positively cool.

What A-levels/degree do you need? At Northumbria, anything goes. At Manchester Met and Canterbury Christ Church you're expected to have A-levels in the subjects you want to specialise in. UEA favours graduates with Firsts and 2.1s.

What grades? Canterbury Christ Church and Manchester Met like Cs. You need 14 points at Northumbria (CCE) though the average is 18. For the PGCE most students have a 2.1.

Will it keep you off the dole? Yes, it's easy-peasy to get a job as a teacher. But not everyone does when they graduate. Some go round the world, some become journalists, and some decide to do supply teaching while they think about what to do. At the Institute of Education, 76 per cent go straight into permanent teaching jobs.

Will you be interviewed? Yes.

What do students say? "It's the most enjoyable thing I've ever done academically. It's very hard work but I've never known anything so rewarding. One of the benefits is that you're with such a range of people and you feed off them." (Matthew Pickhaver, 25, PGCE, University of East Anglia) "It's really good but it's dead stressful. You get a maximum of six hours sleep a night when you're teaching in a school and having to produce essays for college." (Claire Knox, 25, PGCE, Manchester Met) "It's a good course. The old BEd was too specialised. This is much more relevant. We're in school a lot. It's very hands on. I'm looking for a job in September and will do an MA part-time." (Fiona Ong, 39, four-year BA, Canterbury Christ Church)

Top 10 for quality: Oxford, Homerton, Cambridge, Bishop Grosseteste, University of East Anglia, Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham, York, Canterbury Christ Church (league table drawn up by Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson from Teacher Training Agency data).

Where's best for research? London's Institute of Education and King's College scored tip-top 5*; Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, East Anglia, Leeds, Newcastle, Open (educational technology), Oxford and Sheffield scored 5; Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, Goldsmiths', Manchester, Nottingham, Open, Southampton, Surrey, Sussex, Warwick, York, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Queen's Belfast and Ulster scored 4.

Where's the cutting edge? UEA is hot in applied research. Manchester Met specialises in policy and innovation e.g. teacher training partnerships with schools, education action zones, etc; Canterbury Christ Church in early years, leadership management, exclusions, special needs and denominational schools.

Who are the stars? Professors John Elliott, Ivor Goodson and Barry Macdonald, all at UEA. Professors Colin Biott and Patrick Eason, Northumbria; Professors Ian Stronach, an independent evaluator for Summerhill School, and David Hustler, both of Manchester Met; Professors Tricia David, Carol Aubrey, Carl Parsons and James Arthur at Canterbury Christ Church.

Added value: Canterbury Christ Church has a fourth year on its BA which gives you a diploma in specialist teacher studies. Successful completion gives you credits towards a master's degree.

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