The Campus Question: Should English universities move to four-year degrees based on the Scottish and US models?

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Lord Dearing: Author of the 1997 higher education report that paved the way for the introduction of tuition fees

Lord Dearing: Author of the 1997 higher education report that paved the way for the introduction of tuition fees

I don't think this is a good idea. English degrees are considered to be a high standard all over the world, as illustrated by the number of students coming from abroad to study here. We have had this system for many years. It is not length of study that should determine the standard of degree achievement.

Professor David VandeLinde: Vice-chancellor, University of Warwick

I agree there should be more flexibility in all our degree programmes to allow students the option of drawing elements of study from outside their core discipline. At the university I know best in the United States [Johns Hopkins], the degrees last for four years, but about 20 per cent of students complete in three years by taking more than the standard load of modules. We should examine how to provide flexibility throughout a degree programme rather than limiting it to a first-year option.

Dr David Eldridge: Director of American Studies, University of Hull

Our four-year degree students often get better results than our three-year students. For example, a recent class of four-year graduates jumped from an average of 58.8 per cent to 64.1 per cent in two years; the three-year students went from 58.6 per cent to 59.7 per cent in one year. Also, when our students experience the American style of education, they take the opportunity to broaden their studies and this has a positive effect on their careers. Classes in journalism, screenwriting and fashion design, for instance, give our students an edge in the job market.

Liz Cruickshank: Sandwich course student at the University of Manchester

As one of many people who postponed university, unsure of what discipline to follow, I would have preferred to have more options. The general election made me realise that I know embarrassingly little about our electoral system. Also, I am regularly stumped on subjects such as British geography or Shakespeare. It is depressing when a foreign student knows more about these subjects than I do because our degree programmes focus on depth, rather than breadth of knowledge.

Kat Fletcher: NUS National President

Students who do an extra year on top of their standard three-year degree programme find the experience extremely worthwhile both for their personal and professional development. However, while an extra year at university has the potential to equip the learner with added skills, knowledge and experience, it also saddles them with another year's worth of debt. When top-up fees are introduced in 2006, that could mean another £3,000 to pay off on graduation.

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