In February 2000 the first group of students ever to obtain a postgraduate degree in Archaeology by distance learning will reap their reward.
The University of Leicester course was launched in October 1997 and the first group of students is to graduate after studying for the past two years will receive the degree of MA in Archaeology and Heritage from the Chancellor of the University, Sir Michael Atiyah.
The distance learning programme - the first of its kind in the world - is now firmly established in the School of Archaeological Studies at Leicester and currently has 75 students registered for the course from 17 countries.
Dr Alan McWhirr, Course Director, said: "There is clearly a demand for such a course as we have had enquiries from more than 50 countries.
"Our students come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some are in archaeological posts, others are in museums, heritage management, government agencies and schools. Many see the qualification as professional development and a way of updating their skills. Others have had a life-long interest in archaeology and now in retirement have the time to study. Our oldest student is 83 this February and is due to graduate in July this year."
The MA in Archaeology and Heritage consists of four modules and a dissertation. The modules include landscape archaeology, planning and management of archaeological projects, the archaeology of standing buildings and the interpretation and presentation of the archaeological heritage.
Mr Brian Giggins, one of those who will be graduating in February, praised the distance learning programme: "Working as an archaeological officer for a unitary authority, I required an additional qualification in Archaeology. The MA by distance learning has allowed me to obtain this in my own time without the need for day release or regular travel.
"Although the coursework took up a large amount of spare time, I found it challenging and stimulating. The course material and text books provided were sufficient to undertake the majority of the assignments and the University tutors and staff were very helpful. The use of Email enabled good liaison with the University.
"The course has widened my perspective of archaeology, which has assisted me in dealing with both the curatorial and sites and monuments aspects of my post."
Head of School, Professor Graeme Barker, commented: "I have been delighted by the response to this course and it is clear that there is a demand for such professional development courses in which students can enhance their skills whilst still maintaining a job."
Dr McWhirr added: "There has been a tremendous response from America and a large number of recent students have come from that part of the world. We also have students from Hong Kong, Australia, Africa, Greece, Holland, Canada, Japan and Korea."
Further information is available from Dr Alan McWhirr, School of Archaeological Studies, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH, England, Tel: +44 (0) 116 252 2729 Fax: +44 (0) 116 223 1267: email firstname.lastname@example.org, Website http://www.leicester.ac.uk/archaeology/
Note to Editors: The Degree Congregation will take place on 3 February 2000 at 2.30 pm in the De Montfort Hall, Leicester.
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