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Student Finance

Accelerated degrees: pros, cons and Student Finance

Accelerated degrees can give you the same qualification, just in less time and for less money. But what are the drawbacks? And what funding can you get?

students in classroom with stopwatch icon

Credit: Gorodenkoff (background), Fanisa Azzahra (stopwatch) – Shutterstock

Accelerated degrees offer a cheaper route to graduation, serving up the same course content in a fraction of the time. And, as you'll only be at uni for two years, you should have a smaller Student Loan to repay at the end.

But accelerated degrees aren't for everyone. The condensed timeframe means you'll have to sacrifice opportunities to socialise and work, and you'll also need to consider the funding on offer too. While it should be cheaper, you may find that the extra Maintenance Loan you're entitled to isn't enough to fund your living costs.

Read on to find out more about accelerated degrees, including all the pros and cons, and what Student Finance you'll be able to get.

What is an accelerated degree?

An accelerated degree is an undergraduate course that lasts two years, rather than the standard three. As such, they're sometimes also referred to as 'fast-track degrees'.

The course content on an accelerated degree is identical to the three-year equivalent, and the qualification you get at the end is the same too. The only difference is that you sacrifice a lot of your holiday – particularly during the summer – to complete the course in a shorter time.

As they're a relatively new concept, and don't necessarily appeal to everyone, not all universities offer accelerated degrees.

In fact, almost all of the fast-track degrees in the UK are offered by English universities. Elsewhere in the UK, they're either only offered at postgraduate level, or only available for a limited range of vocational courses (like Law or Social Work).

That said, if you're happy to go to university in England, you'll find accelerated degrees in a whole range of subjects, offered by unis across the country.

Should you do an accelerated degree?

Despite their appeal, fast-track degrees aren't for everyone. To help you decide, we've put together a quick list of their pros and cons.

Why an accelerated degree could be a good option

Here are a few of the pros of an accelerated degree:

  • As you're only studying for two years, rather than three, you'll graduate with a smaller Student Loan to repay.
  • Assuming you start your course straight after school or sixth form, you'll enter the world of work before your peers of the same age. This means you can start earning money quicker, and potentially get a head start on the career ladder.
  • If you're not in a rush to start the course, you could take a gap year after school and still end up graduating at the same time as your friends.

Why an accelerated degree may be a bad option

Meanwhile, here are some of the cons of an accelerated degree:

  • As accelerated degrees cram the same amount of work into a smaller period, you'll probably find that you have less free time and miss out on some of the social aspects of university.
  • You'll also have less time to rest, be that in the week or when you would otherwise have had holidays.
  • Although you may find time for a part-time job, you won't be able to up your hours during what would normally be your summer holiday.
  • If you're on an accelerated course, you could receive additional maintenance funding to cover the extra weeks of study in a year. However, depending on where in the UK you're from and what your household income is, this extra funding may be at a lower rate than the rest of your loan.
  • Not all parts of the UK offer Tuition Fee Loans that will cover the full cost of an accelerated degree.
Before we run through the funding, remember that you apply for Student Finance from the part of the UK you normally live in, not where your university is.

Tuition Fee Loans for accelerated degrees

university surrounded by bags of money

Tuition fees for accelerated degrees are usually capped at £11,100 a year, and most universities will charge this amount. While this is higher than the regular fee cap (£9,250 a year), it's significantly cheaper overall as you study for just two years, rather than three.

England and Northern Ireland both offer a special Tuition Fee Loan that will cover the cost in full.

However, if you live in Scotland or Wales, there's no extra tuition funding for fast-track degrees. Instead, the maximum Tuition Fee Loan is £9,250 a year, and you'll need to fund the remaining amount yourself either using personal funds or bursaries, scholarships and grants.

It's also worth noting that the £11,100 tuition fee cap only applies to publicly-funded universities. Private unis can charge as much as they like, and the maximum Tuition Fee Loan available for students at these institutions is just £7,400 a year.

While most unis are publicly funded, one of the largest providers of accelerated degrees – the University of Buckingham – is private. Here, annual tuition fees can be double the maximum loan (or more), and you'd need to pay the remaining amount yourself.

Maintenance Loans for accelerated degrees

Depending on where in the UK you usually live, you may be able to get extra funding for the additional weeks of study involved in a single year of an accelerated degree.

In England and Wales, the definition of a 'longer' course is one that involves you studying for more than 30 weeks and three days in a single academic year. In Northern Ireland, the cutoff is slightly earlier, at just 30 weeks.

Again, in Scotland, there's no extra funding for students on accelerated degree courses.

For every week over the threshold, you could be entitled to some extra cash. However, while the amount is calculated on a weekly basis, the funding will come in a lump sum as part of your April/May Maintenance Loan payment.

And note that, regardless of which part of the UK you receive Student Finance from, your standard Maintenance Loan entitlement won't be affected.

Long Courses Loans in England

Your living arrangementsMaximum amount for each extra week
Living with your parents£71
Away from home (outside London)£107
Away from home (in London)£138
Living and studying abroad£148

The Long Courses Loan in England is means-tested. So, like the Maintenance Loan, the exact amount you receive will vary depending on your household income.

If your household income is £39,796 or less, you should receive the maximum weekly amount on offer for a student with your living arrangements. If your household income exceeds this figure, you'll receive a smaller amount based on the information you submit to Student Finance England.

However, if you already receive the minimum Maintenance Loan, you won't be eligible for any extra funding. This includes students with the following household incomes:

  • £58,291 or more if you'll be living at home while studying
  • £62,343 or more if you'll be living away from and outside of London while studying
  • £70,040 or more if you'll be living away from and in London while studying.

It also includes any student who fails to submit household income information as part of their finance application.

Also note that if your course involves studying for more than 45 weeks of the academic year, you may qualify for funding that equals the equivalent of 52 weeks' worth.

Extended years Maintenance Loans in Northern Ireland

Your living arrangementsMaximum amount for each extra week
Living with your parents£77
Away from home (outside London)£118
Away from home (in London)£152
Living and studying abroad£164

If you get your funding from Student Finance Northern Ireland, you could receive additional cash to cover the extra weeks of study involved in an accelerated degree.

Crucially, this funding always comes in the form of a means-tested loan. Unlike the normal maintenance funding in Northern Ireland, there are no grants on offer for the extra weeks.

And, because it's means-tested, you might not receive the maximum amount.

What's more, you won't be eligible for the extra weeks of funding if you receive a "reduced loan". In this context, this applies to:

  • Anyone who only receives the non-household-income-assessed portion of the Maintenance Loan
  • Anyone who receives a reduced-rate loan, usually because they also get some form of NHS Bursary or are on a sandwich course.

Finally, if your course lasts for 45 weeks or more within any 12-month period, you will receive extra funding as if you were studying for 52 weeks.

Maintenance Loans in Scotland

As we explained earlier, the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS, the Student Finance body in Scotland) offers no additional funding for students on accelerated courses.

This means that you'll only be able to apply for the standard Maintenance Loan (or 'Student Loan', as it's known in Scotland) to cover your living costs. For most students, this amounts to the following:

Household incomeLoanBursaryTotal
£0 to £20,999£7,000£2,000£9,000
£21,000 to £23,999£7,000£1,125£8,125
£24,000 to £33,999£7,000£500£7,500

These amounts assume you’re a dependent (or ‘young’) student. If you’re 25 or older, check out our guide to Student Finance for mature students.

This funding is unlikely to be enough to support you throughout your course, especially if you plan to study in London. As such, we'd recommend you look into alternative sources of funding to supplement your loan – particularly student grants.

Extended years Maintenance Loans in Wales

Your living arrangementsMaximum amount for each extra week
Living with your parents£93
Away from home (outside London, including overseas)£141
Away from home (in London)£179

Student Finance Wales offers some of the UK's most generous funding for students on accelerated courses.

However, unlike Wales' regular maintenance support for students, there are no grants available among this extra funding. Instead, the additional weekly support comes in the form of a loan.

That said, the funding isn't means-tested, so most students will receive the full amount.

The only exception applies to students receiving the reduced rate of loan. You may get a reduced-rate loan if you're receiving certain types of NHS bursary, or if you're on a full-time sandwich course.

Whatever the reason, if you're receiving a reduced Maintenance Loan, you won't be eligible for the extra weekly funding for fast-track degree students.

Repaying your accelerated degree Student Loan

piggy bank with graduate cap

Students who undertake accelerated degrees repay their Student Loans in exactly the same way as everyone else.

Our dedicated guide to Student Loan repayments explains everything in more detail, but we'll summarise the headlines for you here.

The main thing to note is that Student Loans aren't like other types of debt.

For one, you won't part with a single penny until you start earning more than the repayment threshold. This amount varies depending on which part of the UK gave you your loan, but the principle is always the same.

What's more, should your salary suddenly drop below the threshold, your repayments will stop until you're once more above it – if ever.

If you are earning more than the threshold, you'll only ever repay 9% of your earnings above it. This means the amount you repay is tied to your earnings, so it tends to be pretty manageable. And, as Student Loan repayments don't affect your credit score, they shouldn't have a significant impact on your ability to buy a house.

Finally, no matter how much or how little you've repaid, your remaining Student Loan balance will be cancelled after 30 or so years.

So, despite the many faults with the Student Loan system in the UK, the repayments aren't that bad at all.

Our list of bursary and scholarship sources will help if you need to find any extra funding.

Tom Allingham

WRITTEN BY Tom Allingham

Tom joined Save the Student in 2017, initially heading up the editorial team before becoming Communications Director. He has appeared as a Student Finance expert on a range of TV and radio stations including the BBC, ITV and Sky, sharing his top tips for saving money and cutting student bills.
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