Students across the UK will be offered “accelerated” two-year degree courses by 2019, under new plans set out by the Government.
The degree would be taught in the same manner that it is taught normally, but taught over a shorter space of time, with students expected attend university for 45 weeks across the academic year, rather than 30 weeks, which is what is currently being offered by universities.
The change will also be taught at a slightly lower cost of £11,000 a year, saving the average student just over £5,000 in tuition fees.
The Department for Education has said that undergraduates opting for shorter courses would save a total of 20% on tuition fees, compared with their peers on traditional three-year degrees. The Office for Fair Access has also said that the plan could help to widen opportunities for future employment.
The government believe that the implementation of two year degrees across the UK would be the solution to counter current fears about the rising level of student debt and also the decline of mature candidates.
The proposal of fast track degrees was part of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, which was passed by Parliament before the announcement of the snap general election back in April last year.
University Minister Jo Johnson said the new Act “has finally enabled us to break the mould of this one-size-fits-all system so students have much more choice over how they learn.”
At the time of writing, this proposal have not been legislated, as MPs would need to agree on secondary legislation in order for fees to go up and the proposals to be put forward. The consultation will run until February 2018 and new fee arrangements are set to be in place by September 2019.
Providers of accelerated degrees claim their students are more engaged in their academic studies and employer feedback suggests that the degrees attract a wider pool of applicants, including mature students looking to retrain and return to the workplace far quicker than if they were studying for a degree that currently lasts three years.
The Government believe that the two-year degree model could be a much more practical option for mature students and that it will help to restore the declining levels of older students applying for degree programs.
Kent Union President, Ruth Wilkinson, told InQuire that in order to see whether this proposed system would work; “We need to know what this actually looks like and how it will affect all students.
“At first glance I think it could massively increase access for students with dependents, mature students and other groups who currently struggle to commit and fund a three year degree.”
Students at Kent have reacted to this new government proposal with mostly mixed responses, with some encouraged by the idea of bolstering their financial situation, and others more concerned with the stressful environment of university merely being condensed into a shorter time frame.
One student’s view on this matter is Michael Webb, a first year Politics and International Relations undergraduate, who feels that the proposal is “an interesting idea,” but is equally concerned about what this may be for the student experience.
“I think it’s an interesting idea. The proposal could work for a selection of students but I expect for the majority of students, it will be too much pressure moving straight from A-level to degree level.
“Leaving home for the first time and working for 45 weeks is too long and you will have less time to experience university life and societies.
“If the Conservatives want to win young voters, this is not a good policy to go with a reduction in tuition fees or return of the maintenance grant would be a better proposal.”
The government will most likely benefit from this proposal economically, because the funding of university tuition fees would be forecast as less than what it currently in place. However, universities would seek to lose out financially because of this new change to fees.
The government also argue that by reducing the degree by a year, student’s will also pay less rent and living costs, including maintenance loan. It will also allow graduates the opportunity to find work quicker.
Labour have responded in opposition to the proposal, claiming that it is simply “another plan to raise tuition fees” and that there is no evidence that “squeezing three years of learning into two will stop the huge drop in part-time students or lead to better outcomes.”
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said there was no evidence that “squeezing three years of learning into two will stop the huge drop in part-time students or lead to better outcomes.
“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.”
Further concerns have additionally been raised about the impact shorter courses could have on universities, such as staff contracts, research and more.
Some universities in the UK currently offer two year degrees, including the University of Buckingham, where they have been delivering fast track courses for over 40 years.
In addition, some shorter courses are already widely available across the UK, including degrees in Law, Accountancy and English. The government’s plan is to make degrees more available across a range of subjects and disciplines.
There have been previous attempts to promote two-year degrees by certain groups, but critics in the past have said the number of people currently taking short courses were “pitiful”, with only 0.2% of students on such accelerated courses.