I was recently invited to be in a panel to review some degrees in a college. This gave me a inside look into the higher education system of our country. I came out of the review appreciative of the hard work being put in by the college and more importantly surprised ( and a little scared) of how many of the futures of young children lay at stake for want of some decisions and because of the holy cows that had to be protected at any cost.
The first issue i saw was in whether we wanted to conform with the larger generally accepted understanding of degree brands or whether to invent a degree brand perception of our own. This was important especially between two degrees of almost similar course content but different names. Who would not like to be an inventor, a creator? The bigger question in my mind was, would creating a different brand perception not lead to confusion in the job market? The job market is being bombarded with graduates from different countries with the same degree name. I have no doubt in my mind that these graduates from different countries come with different levels of skill sets and competencies. God forgive me for this, but in the consideration of the holy cows, my vote went for creating our own country specific definition of the degrees being offered. This, in my opinion, was the best decision possible, given the situation. We would now have two degrees clearly differentiable for someone with deeper information on the degrees. For the sake of conveying this information to the job market, the specific majors on their degree certificates is expected to provide indicative information on a graduates skill sets.
The second issue was again of the need for differentiation. It is blasphemous to put it lightly, to give graduates the same degree for courses pursued diligently for differently periods of time. For the expected additional skill sets and competencies expected to be gained after spending additional year in college, there has to be a clear differentiation which the job market can easily know from the degree certificates. The job market has already become sensitive to differentiating between honours and non-honours courses. I am happy to say this issue has been resolved beautifully, with the additional recognition provided with an early exit option keeping in mind the duration of courses of other countries where our graduates come from.
The third issue. Ours is a small country. No publisher would see sense in comming out with text books specific to the syallabus prescribed for our degrees. For the development of the student, the course is made as rich as possible, which often means that a single available book in the market doesn't generally cover all the topics. This warrants heavy details in the syllabus, to ensure that courses don't change with change in lecturers, and different college don't approach the same course differently. Many topics taught remain implicit in the syllabus, which would not be covered by other lecturers of the same course. There seems to be elements of laziness and of defensiveness in getting detailed course outlines. I hope this gets done.
On a positive note, the course content seem very rich, and I have no doubts in my mind that, academically graduates from our local colleges would have superior or comparable skill set and competencies with the better colleges in the region.