Postgraduate news and views

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The Independent Online

The inward-looking world of British conservation needs a good shake-up, says Malcolm Dunkeld, the course director of South Bank University's new MA in Architecture: Historic Building Conservation, which is due to start this autumn. "The aim is to introduce European conservation techniques into Britain, which is dominated by organisations such as English Heritage and the National Trust," he says.

The course will look at good practice across Europe. Students will attend residential workshops in Venice on fresco restoration, and study timber craft skills in a German town with more than 1,500 medieval timbered buildings. As well as covering conservation theory, practice and law, they will get a chance to hone their skills in areas such as stone carving and timber cutting at craft workshops at Lambeth College.

"Students need to be interested in conservation," Mr Dunkeld says. "They may be architects or surveyors who want to work in a specific area, or those working for a conservation organisation who want to develop their careers, or someone with a degree in another area who wants to get into this world."

A new national gateway to allow postgraduate students to apply to higher education institutions electronically will attract much-needed applications from overseas, according to its developers, the Careers Services Unit (CSU) and the UK Council for Graduate Education.

The universities of Durham and Glasgow are the first institutions to sign up to the free system, which is tailored to each institution's requirements and can be accessed via the institution's website, or from, the graduate careers information and guidance site that hosts the national postgraduate database.

"Before this system was introduced, the best we could offer applicants was a paper application form loaded on to the web, which they had to download, complete by hand and post," says Dr Alison Reed, postgraduate admissions officer at Durham. "This is an improvement. Enquirers were requesting an electronic format for applications, which makes it easier for overseas applicants to apply quickly and reliably."

Attracting international students to the UK is crucial to the higher education sector, says the CSU chief executive, Mike Hill. "The development of the application process helps to maintain the UK's competitive position in postgraduate recruitment as other higher education institutions in North America and Australasia develop similar online systems."

Those interested in a new career in community safety should look at the University of the West of England's postgraduate certificate in crime prevention. Based on a Home Office report in early 1990s, it is aimed at improving practice in both police and local authorities.

"It's been a success," says the course award leader, Henry Shaftoe. "We've had more than 150 students from all over the world, and demand is growing with the new profession of community safety officer. There is a shortage, and local authorities are having to appoint people with little experience."

The distance learning format allows those abroad and in employment to get their teeth into such issues as improving neighbourhoods by involving local people, design and crime, high-rise and town-centre safety, and European approaches.

"I wanted to raise my awareness of community safety issues," says student Jon Rene, the community and race relations officer at Aylesbury Vale Police. "But the course has broadened my knowledge of the role crime prevention plays in tackling crime and reducing fear of crime."