Accelerated two-year degrees to save students £5,500 in fees
The new format was set to cost the same as a three-year degree, but will now cost around 20% less.
Students who choose to study their degree over two years will save £5,500 in tuition fees, the government has announced.
Tuition fees for the accelerated courses, which are intended to be available from autumn 2019, were set to be around £14,000 a year, meaning the total cost would have been the same as a three-year equivalent.
However, the government has now revised its proposals and announced that the annual tuition fee for a two-year degree will be £11,100. If this is put into effect, students on two-year degrees will save £5,500 in fees compared to students on the traditional three-year format.
Why does the government want to introduce two-year degrees?
Firstly, we should point out that two-year degrees aren't intended to replace the good old three-year format. The new arrangement will involve studying over the summer between your first and second year, but if you don't fancy that, you can take the traditional route instead!
Crucially, the total number of lectures and contact hours would remain the same, with the only difference being the time taken to complete the course.
Jo Johnson, the universities minister, believes that the accelerated degrees will go some way to satisfying the apparent demand for greater flexibility in higher education.
Back when the plans were first announced earlier this year, he said:
Students are crying out for more flexible courses, modes of study which they can fit around work and life, shorter courses that enable them to get into and back into work more quickly, and courses that equip them with the skills that the modern workplace needs.
He reiterated this belief when revising the new fees system, stating that mature students in particular may "want to retrain, develop new skills and find a new role in the workforce, and they may be put off by a traditional three-year course".
This assertion was seemingly supported by the Office for Fair Access, who said that the plans could help to widen opportunities.
Having revealed that two-year degrees would save students over £5,000 in tuition fees, Jo Johnson even went as far as saying that opting for the express option could benefit you by as much as £25,000.
He reckons that once you factor in the saving of one year's maintenance loan, and the fact that you'll be starting work a year earlier, you'll save approximately another £20,000.
Are two-year degrees all they're cracked up to be?
As you'd expect, the government's plans have been met with criticism in some quarters.
Angela Rayner, Labour's shadow education secretary, challenged the idea that two-year degrees would help to widen participation. She argues that that there's no evidence to suggest that offering condensed courses will "stop the huge drop in part-time students or lead to better outcomes".
She also warned that charging £11,100 a year for the accelerated degrees was just "another plan to raise tuition fees".
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The reduction in fees also fails to address many of the issues that we raised when Jo Johnson first floated the idea earlier this year.
Cramming three years of study into two-thirds of the time means you'll almost certainly have to sacrifice getting a part-time job. This might sound like a load off your mind, but as our National Student Money Survey has found, maintenance loans fall short of living costs by an average of £221 every month.
By the same token, with more uni-per-week and fewer holidays, you could also miss out on work placements and internships. What's more, it's unclear what impact (if any) a two-year degree will have on a potential employer's perception of an applicant.
And, of course, mental health has to be taken into account. 50% of students say that money worries have a negative impact on their mental health, and with fewer holidays and a more intense working schedule, the stress is likely to get worse, not better.
As for university staff, the summer is usually taken as an opportunity to focus on their own academic work. However, if they're still expected to teach during these months, there's a chance that their research could suffer.
This may not sound important to you as a student, but ultimately research is what keeps a university going. Good researchers attract funding, enhance a uni's reputation and improve the content of the courses, so it's in everyone's interest to let them get on with their work!
What do you think about two-year degrees? Great idea, or just another gimmick? Let us know in the comments!