TRINITY and All Saints Colleges have diversified from their teacher training role to offer a unique range of professional degree courses. Christopher Rails recalls his experiences a student of media at the WHEN, on Trinity Sunday, Bishop Wheeler of Leeds conferred Papal honours on the retiring Principals of Trinity and All Saints' Colleges, he paid tribute to two people who have not only led the colleges since theninception in 1966, but have overseen some remarkable changes in the structure of the courses and the resulting qualifications.
Mr A. M. Kean became a Knight Cornmander of St Gregory, while Sister Augusta Maria CP. received the medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifire. These honours, they later assured me, came as a total surprise to them both.
The message of the '70's, for TASC and other teacher training colleges was "diversify or close". And since that time, many a college has had to close, or amalgamate with others to survive.
But TASC has soldiered on alone. and I was present that Sunday, not just as a Catholic Herald reporter, but as one of the many exstudents who had returned to the colleges to join in the festivities.
I had been a "guinea pig". That is to say, I joined the colleges in 1975, the year they branched out from purely education courses into the fields of public media and. planning and administration.
In those days the majority of students still aimed to he teachers, and looked askance at the handful of us who spent teaching practice periods on attachment to media organisations. colleges.
banks, insurance companies and the like. Yet the prospective non-teacher element had always been there, and had been allowed for from the outset. The colleges pioneered a course called communication arts and media (known colloquially as CAM) which provided art escape-hatch for those who wanted to do something different within the constraints of the education system as it then existed. A number of CAM students went into broadcasting, film production, and educational technology. This was just as well, as schools curricula hadn't yet developed media studies courses, and CAM students on teaching practice were frequently out on a limb.
But CAM paid dividends. It laid the foundations for the School of Communication, with the result that students like myself worked For BA degrees, with studies related to our professional aspirations. It was no longer necessary to get there via the classroom.
And the same can be said of the School of Management Sciences, where a BA or BSc had
its roots in the economics major course, and
studies led to such careers as accountancy, banking and personnel work. But what, you may ask, is the relevance of the colleges in the broad sweep of careers for which their students are now prepared? They were, after ail, built to cater for Catholic teachers who would teach in Catholic schools.
Professionally, 1 and many of my colleagues liked the flexibility of the courses. If you started with the intention of teaching, and then decided to transfer to media or planning, you hadn't burned your boats.
This led to some interesting combinations; there were theology students who could think in terms of careers outside teaching, such as religious broadcasting.
But what about those whose ambition is to work in a purely secular environment? Professional options laid aside, does this Catholic foundation retain any relevance for them?
I would suggest that this question can only be answered at the level of individual experience.
For me, the academic perspective was inseparable from its Christian setting. By this I mean that I could have taken a degree in media studies at a polytechnic and emerged with a similar qualification to that which I have now. But I studied in a predominantly Christian community in which, I still like to think, ethical values were paramount in the lives of the students.
For example. there are no "watch out there's a thief about" notices at TASC. They never seem to have been necessary. Polytechnics and universities please note. I would lace to think that the students carry these values with them into their careers.
Of course, there is no reason why TASC should be unique in holding on to its Christian values. It would be surprising, and distressing if other Catholic colleges were unable to make similar claims.
But the temptation to forego the Christian angle, or even to inadvertently forget it, could easily be present in colleges such as Trinity and All Saints, where the subject matter strays further into secular byways than it used to.
I think it is true to say that the teaching staff are aware of the need to keep an ethical perspective. John Short, one of my former tutors and a journalist of many years standing, says "We, in education at least, must celebrate the primacy of being human over any professional or vocational function performed by the human being. Hence our emphasis must be on education not training." I endorse that view. How far the colleges succeed in putting this across will become evident over the years. It's still early days for the new professional courses.