Adventure with honours;Subject of the week;Outdoor education

9th July 1999 at 01:00
Peter Bunyan offers details of a degree for daredevils.

Adventure is nothing new. Every generation will witness some great endeavour in the face of adversity - whether it's the first person to stand on top of the world's highest mountain, or the first circumnavigation of the world in a balloon.

But our perception of adventurous activities has moved on. The romantic image of a magnificent challenge with life-or-death consequences undertaken only by the most fearless or foolhardy has given way to a vision of life-enhancing activities within the reach of all. Whether it's traditional outdoor pursuits or visits to unfamiliar places, now anyone can do it - and be back at work by Monday morning.

But if adventurous experience is to feed through into personal growth, proper support is vital, which is why University College Chichester is launching the United Kingdom's first single honours degree in adventure education.

While outdoor education centres have traditionally been good at developing physical techniques, such as paddling a canoe, they have been less successful at imparting less tangible skills - increased self-esteem, teamwork or decision-making. Instructors often assume benefits will accrue through some form of osmosis, as though all someone has to do is take part.

Chichester's degree, validated by the University of Southampton, aims to make sense of the whole adventure experience. It has been designed with the help of professionals working in local authority and privately-run centres, representatives from governing bodies and environmental agencies. It will focus on three themes. The first will concentrate on an individual's experience. The second will consider how groups come together and develop. The third looks at environmental education and possible clashes between user and provider.

The college expects students with a variety of interests, from those who want to focus specifically on performance to those who wish to be involved as providers. Early indications suggest the first intake will be a mix of school leavers and mature students. Although the college is asking for a minimum of two A-levels, with GCSE maths and English at C or above, students with relevant experience or equivalent qualifications will be welcome if they can demonstrate commitment to the subject.

Although the course will combine lectures and seminars with practical sessions, the degree also gives students a chance to take a year out working in the industry. What it won't do is provide awards from the various governing bodies (canoeing, rock climbing, and so on).

By the time they graduate, students should possess a personal philosophy and the skills needed to cope with the increasingly diverse challenges in adventure education.

Peter Bunyan is the course leader of the adventure education course,University College, Chichester .Tel: 01243 816317.

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