‘Cheaper’ two-year degrees: What are the pros and cons?

The government’s plans to cut tuition costs by introducing more two-year degrees are underway. Unified explains how much money they can save and their drawbacks. 

Students will have the option of ‘accelerated’ two-year university courses which could save them 20% (£5,500) on tuition fees compared to the standard three-year course.

The courses would require a 45-week year teaching and would be considered as a ‘fast-track degree’. Students would also be able to save a year’s worth of money on accommodation and expenses.

Running an intensive course course would mean extra teaching costs, meaning universities can charge higher for the accelerated degrees. This fee is estimated to be £11,000 per academic year.

intensive courses are for students who would want a cheaper and faster way of earning a university degree – a government strategy to address the falling number of mature students in higher education.

Universities minister, Sam Gymah confirmed the plans earlier this week.

Gyimah said: “Accelerated degrees not only make it possible for the next generation of students to access higher education and the undeniable financial, academic and personal benefits it has to offer, but drives the sector to offer dynamic choices that serve students’ needs.

“Providers will be able to tap into a new market of students, particularly mature students, who were previously locked out of higher education. This provision creates a new arena of competition that delivers for students, taxpayers and employers.”

Sam Gyimah, universities minister

However, academics believe that the intensive nature of two-year degrees could have a ‘serious impact’ on the employment conditions of lecturers.

The chair of Brighton University’s UCU, Mark Abel said: “Packing everything into 2 years would mean less opportunity for students to mature educationally during their course. Also, less possibility for periods of self-directed study.

“So the 2-year model actually transforms higher education radically, and not in a good way.”

How much can students save?

The two-year degrees will cost 20% less than the three-year courses. Instead of a £9,000 per year tuition fee, accelerated degrees will cost £11,000 per year.

Students will only pay £22,200 for their two-year degree as opposed to the total of £27,750 with a the typical three year course, freeing up £5,500.

Jo Johnson, who was universities minister last year, suggested that students can save up to £25,000 through the new plans.

He explained students can start earning straight after their two-year degree, rather than spend another year in higher education. He explained that that adding the average starting salary of a graduate which is £19,000, with the saving of £5,500 would mean students who opted for an accelerated degree could save up to £25,000.

What are the benefits?

Saving time

Politics student at Durham University, Tom Harwood would have chosen a two-year degree if he was given the option.

He said: “Two-year degrees are a fantastic idea. There is so so much wasted time in three year degrees.

Guy Opperman MP recommends the accelerated degrees, having graduated from one at Buckingham University.

He said: “I did one of the first 2 year degrees at Buckingham University. I can really recommend them. There are 4 terms a year, featuring a term in the traditional summer holidays, less debt and more modular courses.

The Hexham MP said that Jo Johnson should expand on this idea as they are ‘progressive thinking’.

Straight into employment after two years

Kimberley Hutchinson was recently accepted into a primary education accelerated degree. She believes that the fast-track course is a good way for schools to tackle the teacher shortage in the country.

The NHS worker said: “I’m going to qualify a year earlier. It’s better to go down this route, especially with the teacher shortage.”

Kimberley is aware of the intensive workload of the degree and worried that it will increase drop-out rates.

She said: “I do think it’s really important for students to have to prove that they are capable of doing the accelerated degree.

“As a way to prevent future stress and failures. They need to feel that they can commit to the intensity.”

Being ahead of three-year degree students

Abartay University are one of the pioneers of two-year courses and the only university in Scotland to offer the choice of accelerated degrees.

Head of the School of Social and Health Sciences, Andrea Cameron has led Abertay’s involvement in this area. Andrea has worked with the Higher Education Academy Flexible Journey webinar series, Universities UK Accelerated Degree Workshop and Quality Assurance Agency Viewpoint.

She said: “Taking on an accelerated degree is a fantastic option for students who want to get their foot on the career ladder as quickly as possible.

“This year saw the first cohort of Abertay students graduate from our accelerated programmes, entering the jobs market a year ahead of their peers.

“By condensing the time taken to achieve their qualification they have not only sped up access to a graduate salary, but also saved a significant amount on living and accommodation costs.

“Accelerated degrees feature all the same course content and are subjected to the same rigorous standards as programmes following a more conventional timetable.”

‘There’s enough pressure in a three-year programme’

What are the drawbacks?

Higher yearly tuition fee

The annual tuition fee for an accelerated degree is £11,000 as opposed to the £9,000 for the standard three-year course.

Shadow Secretary of State for Education said that the government’s plan to increase fast-track degrees is simply another way to raise tuition fees.

As reported in the Huffington Post, Angela Rayner MP said: “It seems that every higher education policy from this government comes with another plan to raise tuition fees, with students on part time degrees now facing charges of over £11,000 a year.

“With universities facing uncertainty over Brexit, ministers must address concerns like the impact on staff workload before imposing more major changes.

“So far they have offered no concrete evidence that squeezing three years of learning into two will stem the huge drop in part-time students, or lead to better outcomes.”

No summer breaks

Students of two-year degrees will not have a summer break as the course consists of four terms that runs all throughout the year. Some critics are saying that this can have a detrimental effect on the student’s well-being.

Historian, Charlotte Riley said: “Students need time to develop ideas. They need time to intellectually grow.

“You can’t just ram three years into two and expect the same outcome.”

Pressure

Others academics believe that the intensive nature of the degree can put too much pressure on the student which will result in failure.

Law lecturer and PhD researcher at City University, Alex Powell said: “I can totally accept that some people would suit accelerated courses. But from my experience, they’re definitely not for everyone.

“There are already enough pressures in a three-year degree programme.”

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Claisse Opulencia

Editor-in-Chief of Unified. Claisse is a third year multimedia journalism student at CCCU. Amnesty Media Award Finalist 2018, IRN Awards Runner-up 2018 and nominated for two SPA Awards 2018.

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