Letter: Benefits of shorter university courses

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report today that universities are to be encouraged to shorten their first degree courses to two years ('Universities consider switch to four terms') calls to mind similar proposals advocated some years ago by Unesco for institutions in the Third World, where Bachelor courses may extend over four years if entry is at the O-level. To eliminate the long vacation and have a four-term year could cut the course to three years, with very considerable savings.

It is unfortunate that universities in the Third World have been provoked into copying the leisurely approach of their counterparts in the industrialised countries. The argument that staff need the time for research may be valid in the case of some; however, observation suggests that the summer months are used by many for lucrative consultancies and lecture engagements.

As to the students, many in the Third World find the long vacation a time of inactivity and stagnation, having neither money nor amenities to fill the time with relevant and exciting activities. Maybe these conditions now apply also to students here.

Yours etc,

E. K. TOWNSEND-COLES

Oxford

24 September

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