Many news publications have been reporting that there are plans for a ‘fast-track degree’ to be introduced to students at UK universities. These degrees would be undertaken in two years rather than the standard three years but would, in the end, cost the same as a three-year degree. Thus, instead of paying £9000 a year, or £9250 as a result of the recent fee increase, it could cost over £13000 a year.
There are concerns over the standard of teaching and the workload imposed on both staff and students by trying to fit three years’ worth of work into 2. Universitites Minister Jo Johnson has attempted to assure us that there would be the “same standard [and] same quality” of education that would be usually expected but simply “in a compressed period of time”.
An advantage to these two year degrees, as reported by the BBC, would be in saving “a year’s living costs”. Johnson also stated that these two-year courses may be more attractive for “mature students and disadvantaged youngsters”. These courses would allow for more ‘contact hours’ and shorter holidays in an effort to get these students to finish the course more quickly and at the same standard, something that many students and parents have raised concerns over due to the exorbitant fees paid for, what many have seen as, unsubstantial teaching time.
These proposals would be introduced by 2020 and would have students currently in Year 10 be able to choose between undertaking a two-year or three-year degree. Jo Johnson has promised that this will appeal to many people as it is a “flexible way of learning”.
However, the Univeristy and College Union (UCU) has criticised these two-year degrees as they do not believe it would “open up the university experience” but rather help higher education for-profit companies, as The Guardian as noted. Labour’s universities spokesman, Gordon Marsden, has also criticised the plans, questioning if the government is “using…higher education legislation…to let tuition fees rip”.
While the courses do allow more flexibility in studies as well as minimising living costs for students, the concerns raised are not uncommon and should not swept aside.