University of Leicester eBulletin

A New Degree for a New Generation of Science Leaders

July 2003

The University of Leicester is announcing an exciting innovation in science HE, designed to address the fading interest of students in science. The degree programme is designed for students who may not want to enter the rarefied spheres of academic research but wish to take on more general roles such as R&D, teaching and science-related management, marketing or media work.

The programme offers a potent mix of scientific knowledge and transferable people skills, and has elicited a great deal of excitement from employers and scientific societies across the country.

The new Leicester BSc and MSci in Integrated Science are unique in that they are wholly interdisciplinary, using only teaching material and projects dedicated to the i-Science degree, and not involving a patchwork of existing courses from across the Faculty of Science.

Modules are taught by problem-based learning. A typical example might be the construction and significance of Stonehenge, and among the skills students will need to use are Physics, Archaeology, Astronomy and Mathematics in their quest to explore why, when and how it was built and the controversies surrounding its use.

Students will work in groups, and will not necessarily all have to work on each aspect of the problem, but will build on their strengths and interests. Each team must understand finally how the problem has been solved, so they will learn about a vast range of science, and, although they will not acquire specialist expertise in every area they will have the opportunity to explore one or two specialities in more depth.

Other topics draw on skills applicable to Biology, Chemistry, IT, Geology and Geography and will feature problems on, for example, space travel, the origins of life and the environment.

Dr Derek Raine, i-Science Centre Director, commented: “As a preparation for interdisciplinary research in say climatology or biophysics, or for a teacher, a science-based manager, press or marketing officer, the i-Science degree offers a realistic training for graduate level employment. At the moment companies may prefer to recruit management trainees, for instance, from arts graduates because they have been taught the relevant skills of presentation and communication. One of our aims is to give that level of skill to graduates with a science background. We want graduates who are both numerate and literate.

“We are opening up graduate level science education to a new cohort of students. We will recruit science leaders and managers and we will attract a new brand of potential science teachers who will regard the prospect of teaching across the boundaries of physics, chemistry and biology as a fantastic opportunity.”

While it is the University of Leicester that is breaking new ground in this way, Dr Raine expects the initiative to take off on a national level. Other higher education institutions are exploring the concept in a more limited form, but Dr Raine believes the time is right to move away quite radically from the tradition of single-subject degrees. The new degree will have the same degree-level status as a single subject science degree but will bring a whole range of students into science who are excited by the concept and relevance of inter-disciplinary study.

The development of problem-based learning for i-Science is supported by the HEFCE fund for the development of teaching and learning (FDTL4).

The Leicester i-Science degree, which is recruiting now for September 2004, has been designed following consultation with teachers and science employers. It has made use of professional market research commissioned from the Institute of Physics, and is in part a response to the 2001 inquiry carried out by the Institute.

Prospective students for the 4-year MSci degree will need 320 A Level points (equivalent to ABB) and those for the 3-year BSc will need 260 points (equivalent to CCC). A and AS Levels will have to include at least one science and students will have to have GCSE Mathematics. Where necessary students will be taught more advanced Mathematics in context on a 'need to know' basis.

NOTE TO EDITORS: i-Science (italic i, standing for interdiciplinary) is the symbol of the Centre. Further information is available from Dr Derek Raine, Director of the i-Science Centre, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, telephone 0116 252 2075, fax 0116 252 2070, email jdr@le.ac.uk

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Last updated: July 2003
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