UK: Flat-pack degrees

One of England's newest universities, Buckinghamshire New University, is now offering a retail management foundation degree in collaboration with the bed company Dreams. Of course, there in nothing wrong with learning how to sell furniture. But there is plenty that is wrong with re-branding a company training scheme and promoting it as a university course, writes Frank Furedi, a professor of sociology at the University of Kent, in a comment piece in The Guardian. He argues that government plans for universities to supply skills demanded by business and commerce are not about providing high quality vocational education but about accrediting employment training. "The likely outcome will be to blur the distinction between education and training, and to lose sight of the purpose of what a university does."

However, writes Furedi, Buckinghamshire offering a degree in retail management with Dreams resonates with official thinking. Recently the universities minister, John Denham, noted that universities will have to change since students in the future "will be studying for something that is directly relevant to their job or to their next career move". It was announced that employers will co-fund around 30,000 new university places.

"Some cynics claim the aim of is simply to get business to cough up funds for higher education. Others, such as Sally Hunt, the leader of the University and College Union, have raised concerns about the danger of giving business too much influence over the delivery of higher education. But there is a far more fundamental problem," argues Furedi.
Full report on The Guardian site