Monday, 2 August 2004

Boosting our productivity

A report from the International Institute for Management Development draws attention to Scotland's poor productivity record:
IMD, the Swiss-based business school, published its annual rankings of national economies yesterday and included Scotland for the first time. According to IMD, the Scottish economy is ranked 36th out of 60 in the global table, but 21st out of 30 when compared to countries and regions of a similar size.
36th is pretty lousy for a country that once led the world in science and inventiveness. But help is at hand. Right on cue, someone has identified a potential productivity improvement:
Ray Donnelly, a retired management lecturer, said ordinary three-year courses could be reduced to 18 months and the four-year Honours degree trimmed to two and a half years. This could be achieved by lengthening the traditional university day and cutting the length of holidays taken by students and lecturers. He said that the changes to students’ working day would also make graduates more ready for the world of employment. Last night, business leaders gave a cautious welcome to the suggestion.
I agree with Mr Donnelly. His figures are interesting:
The former lecturer said that to gain an ordinary three-year degree, students had to complete 12 courses of about 24 hours a term. At present, the load is spread over two ten-week terms and one six-week term.
If we (generously) assume that workload is incurred in all three terms we get 864 annual hours of study. The typical employee works for around 1700 hours per year. And let's not forget that those same employees are financing students through their taxes.

According to the website of the Open University:

The number of credit points given to the course: a 60-point course involves on average 600 hours of study
To get an OU degree requires 360 points - that's 3,600 hours of study in all. This compares with Mr Donnelly's figures of 2,592 hours for an ordinary degree and 3,456 for an honours degree at conventional universities. Not only that, most of those OU students are holding down jobs while studying. I know: been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

The non-government University of Buckingham manages to do what Mr Donnelly suggests and utilises time and resources efficiently thus allowing students to graduate in two years.

If we won't privatise our universities at least let's make them efficient.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Socrates McEwan
The idea of shortening the length of degree courses is one I personally welcome. Currently it is an inefficient use of time. 
I would like to do a degree, have wanted to for the last seven years, but just cannot afford to give up work for three or four years. I could manage two and a half (for an honours degree) though. With an arts degree you are not guaranteed much in the way of employment either, nevertheless there is more to life than dosh and I would still do it. 
When you are older you want to get it over with as quick as possible, life doesn't endlessly stretch out for you like it does when you are young and carefree.

7 August 2004, 19:01:17 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer
I think it's more-or-less the same here. Shorter courses should cost less and reduce student debt. 
Like other OU graduates, I paid for the course myself and paid a vast amount of income tax while working at the same time. 
I do accept that some of the OU's costs are covered by the state although I imagine that the per-student subsidy is far less than elsewhere. Funnily enough, when I asked one of their top people what the per-capita funding was, I was told: "No one's ever asked that before"!

3 August 2004, 12:43:35 GMT+01:00
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john b
Donnelly seems to have missed the point that (even compared with when I was a student five years ago) students spend an awful lot of time working in jobs to fund their study - most of the 'holidays' and 10-20 hours a week during term-time. 
Although actually, perhaps that's not the case in Scotland given your student-friendlier grants/fees situation?

2 August 2004, 22:53:59 GMT+01:00