Athene Donald writes “I concur that lumping polytechnics and (pre-1992) universities together as all the same is unhelpful. They do not all have, or wish to have, indistinguishable missions and student populations, and thinking of the sector like that has been not only unconstructive but damaging.”
“Degree courses in physical sciences and engineering, for example, were extended across the sector from three years to four about 20 years ago”. “The extension was also made in response to the demand from employers for higher levels of graduate skills in these disciplines.”
”Polytechnics of the past provided specialist and technical training, typically in shorter, part-time or day-release formats, that prepared their students for a specific goal and a different sort of qualification”.
“A compressed two-year course might be appropriate to fit the old polytechnic bill for technical training, but that would not equate to the outcome of the standard four-year course now offered in engineering”.
“I would urge that in parallel with any introduction of such two-year courses, institutions continuing to offer three or four-year degrees should be recognized as providing education directed towards a distinctly different end-point. Perhaps this would require a differentiation in institution type to re-invent polytechnics, by another name if necessary”.
Athene Donald is a professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge and Master of Churchill College
Ray Brogden, COO of Qualifi Awarding Organisation, an ex Further Education College student, day release Polytechnic attendee as well as Graduate and Post Graduate learner feels well placed to make comment that “the same old, same old” appears to continue to pervade the HE/Uni sector ie the perennial vocational and academic divide. Yes, both vocational and academic qualifications have their place in a rich and multifaceted education system however it should be recognised that technical qualifications and academic qualifications sit on the same axis, a continuum from skills-based apprenticeships, through vocationally related qualifications and on into pure academia. They are all cousins of the same family, all requiring acquisition and application of knowledge; some requiring application more than others, especially those with a work / vocational setting dimension. I recall with some pride I survived studying 12 hours a day on the day release H.Tech.Cert Applied Biology at Leeds Polytechnic, a long day of lectures and lab work. My skills and knowledge were then further honed as a result of 4 days a week back with my eager employer (eager to make up for lost productivity). Being surrounded and supported by applied subject experts ensured learning was a 5 day, all year round experience, not just class-based. In addition, coursework had to be completed over the weekend, I doubt my undergraduate counterparts at University were putting in the same number of hours nor receiving the invaluable contributions of my peers. To suggest two-year programmes should not include degree programmes and that any such suggestion ought to be pushed toward a Poly system resonates with thinking prevalent in the 70s and 80s. I entirely support the call for the return of Polytechnics, what could and should be a welcome extension of the role of colleges of Further Education, however, the notion that two-year degrees should not be available is wrong. Two-year degree programmes already exist; please visit the accelerated pathways information here – http://qualifi.net/example-pathways/