Summer Schools: What's Your Course?
Schofield, Philip, The Independent (London, England)
Each summer, thousands of people use part of their holidays to pursue a special interest and take part in a residential course of study. Some do so to develop their artistic or craft skills; some to study wildlife, political philosophy or the Florentine Renaissance. Others want to learn a foreign language, develop computing skills, explore the archaeology of Dartmoor, try dinghy sailing, improve their game of bridge or golf, or keep fit in retirement. The choice of topics is almost infinite.
Many courses are run by universities, using their own tutors. Some are run by local authority and private adult education colleges, public schools such as Marlborough College and Millfield, and the Snowdonia, Peak and Lake District National Park authorities. Others are run by the Field Studies Council, various sports bodies, hotels - even by private individuals.
Some distance learning courses, such as the degree courses of the Open University, include mandatory summer schools held on university campuses around Britain. Many other universities also run summer schools. Some are vocational, such as those providing continuing professional education for teachers, run by Loughborough University's Department of Education. Other courses are on academic topics, and, although designed for university and college students, are open to the general public. These academic courses carry credits that can be transferred to other degree courses. However, people are free to choose whether or not they wish to complete the formal assessment needed to earn credits. Other university courses are purely recreational. At Lancaster University, for example, this year's vocational courses include one for postgraduates planning an academic teaching career, and others on human resource development, environmental management systems, and environmental auditing. Academic subjects include Arthurian literature in the 20th century, comparative planetary science, ancient Greece, ethics, and early Christianity. Recreational courses include Georgian antiques, batik and painting on silk, "Lakeland walks for softies", and croquet. Many universities offer courses drawing on their location. You can study Peak District railways at Manchester, Bloomsbury architecture at Birkbeck College, East Anglian folklore at Cambridge, the natural history of the West Country at Exeter, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Hugh Millar at St Andrews, and Scottish family history and many aspects of Scottish music and dance at Stirling. Some also run overseas study courses. Birmingham University runs courses on the Renaissance in Florence, Art Nouveau and Modernism in Vienna, birds and natural history in south-west Spain, the Swiss Alpine landscape, and the lakeland and tundra of Finland. This autumn it is also running a two- week study tour of Southern China and the Pacific Rim. Fourteen British and Irish universities now collaborate to produce a brochure offering 92 different one-week study holidays under the name of the "Summer Academy". Subjects range from Irish humour to life in ancient Egypt, from botanical illustration to discovering Scottish Castles. A 24-hour brochure service is available on 01227 470402. Costs at university summer schools vary significantly, but those in the Summer Academy range from pounds 355 to pounds 440 including a week's accommodation, full board and all course-related excursions. …