Flexible Degrees through Sussex Choice

I just noticed an item in the Times Higher about a new development in the approach to degree structures at the University of Leicester. The piece begins

A growing number of students undertake several work placements and internships over the course of their degree to increase their chances of securing a graduate-level job. But an initiative at the University of Leicester aims to make it easier for undergraduates to learn the range of skills that employers are looking for during their studies.

I feel obliged to point out that, in fact, here at the University of Sussex we already have a scheme (called “Sussex Choice”) that already allows this, as well as a number of other initiatives under the same banner. The University of Leicester’s “initiative” is of course a good development, but it’s not as ground-breaking as the Times Higher story suggests.

Sussex choice allows students the following opportunities:

  • “Electives” in topics not connected with the main subject of their course, e.g. science modules for Arts and Humanities students. I teach on one of these, actually.
  • “Pathways” allowing students to transform their degree into a major/minor combination. This is basically what the University of Leicester is proposing to start.
  • “Placements”, i.e. paid internships, which can be either professional (e.g. in industry) or research-based (e.g. working with a research group inside our outside the University). These can be either integrated within the course of study, leading to (for example) a  degree title which includes (“with a Professional Placement” or “with a Research Placement”) or “voluntary”, usually in subject not directly related to the degree subject.
  • “Study Abroad” opportunities, allowing students to take a term or a year abroad at one of our partner universities.

With very few exceptions – generally due to restrictions imposed by accrediting bodies for some degree programmes – It is possible, for example,  in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, for students to do a Research Placement abroad, combining the latter two of these opportunities; two of our students went to Tsinghua University in China to do precisely this, as part of an exchange agreement. You can read about the students’ experiences of these and other opportunities at Berkeley and  Texas in the United States and Uppsala University (Sweden) here.

Here is the PVC Clare Mackie (my boss!)  explaining the Sussex Choice scheme in a little video…

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