'I'm off to the beach. I've got some research to do'

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The Independent Online

Plymouth University's new BSc in surf science and technology is the kind of degree the Chief Inspector despises. It is new, sexy and fantastically popular, reportedly the only degree in surfing in the world. Not surprisingly, programme leader, Malcolm Findlay, defends it hotly, arguing that the old way of doing things - teaching studentsthrough lectures - has gone.

Plymouth University's new BSc in surf science and technology is the kind of degree the Chief Inspector despises. It is new, sexy and fantastically popular, reportedly the only degree in surfing in the world. Not surprisingly, programme leader, Malcolm Findlay, defends it hotly, arguing that the old way of doing things - teaching studentsthrough lectures - has gone.

In its place has come something fresher and more interesting. "We are using a medium that enthuses and motivates the students to convey a general science and technology degree which will prepare them for the Blairite modern economy, says Dr Findlay, himself a keen surfer.

But the aim of the course is not to have students ending up as surf bums. They are given the opportunity to surf, but it is voluntary, not part of the curriculum. They jump on the boards after they have conducted experiments such as rolling oranges into the water to see how they are affected by the current.

Students also learn about oceanography, advanced wave mechanics and the materials used in the design of surfboards, as well as business studies, how to raise funds for sponsorship and how to keep accounts. They thus acquire skills which can be transferred from one industry to another.

"We aim to produce graduates with a broad range of skills that are not too tightly focused on any one area," says Dr Findlay. "That is what the industry wants."

The degree is hugely successful. Last year, the first year of operation, 25 students were accepted; this year it was 40.

"The students are engaged in lectures and asking questions," explains Mr Findlay. "They're really committed to what they're doing. While we're in the business of education, we have to use what turns them on as a medium.

"It's far better to stand in front of motivated students than people who are wondering when the lecture's going to end."

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