What’s another year?
How long should a degree programme fit for the modern world be? Two years? Three? Four? More? This is an issue that is certain to be increasingly hotly debated, as both universities and governments search for ways in which public money can be saved.
Right now there are European processes that are moving towards some standardisation regarding programme length, but in the meantime the pressure on institutions is to make them shorter. This is a matter of special interest in Scotland, where most degree programmes run for four years (as against the English standard of three years). But now Dundee University has decided to give a lead, and so it has announced that in future some (but not all) of its courses will be shorter. This has created some negative reactions amongst educationalists, but has also brought out some supporters of the change.
In what way does this matter? It does so primarily because the duration of a degree programme should not be seen to be just an organisational matter. It should be part of a significant pedagogical debate in the academy. It may well be that, at the end of this process and Bologna notwithstanding, there will be a greater variety of undergraduate programmes, with an array of teaching methods and pedagogical perspectives. The length of a programme may come to be determined by such perspectives.