What is the purpose of an astronomy degree? Why should students wish to take such a course? What will they do after graduation? In what way would such a course uniquely differ from a physics degree with a little astronomy tossed in? And given that we are called upon to provide such a course, what syllabus might we teach? These are some of the questions that occurred to me as I was preparing this paper.
One obstacle to giving clear answers is that the higher education systems of various countries differ greatly in structure. As one who was trained in one system (U.S.A.) and who teaches in another (U.K.), I am perhaps in a better position than most to appreciate the differences in approach, and to weigh the advantages and shortcomings of each system. But, as Shakespeare’s Dogberry said, “Comparisons are odorous,” and I do not propose to do this! What I describe refers to current practice in the university system of England and Wales, and I will use my own institution’s long-standing astronomy degree as an example.