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Universities could introduce new fast-track degree courses by 2020


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By 2020, universities in England will be able to charge more than £14,000 per year for new, two-year long ‘fast track’ degree courses. Seen as an attractive choice for students wishing to reduce their accommodation and living costs, as well as a chance to be able to get back into work at a quicker rate following graduation for mature students, the proposals have been met with a series of doubts, most notably on the effects they may have on the quality of these courses.

With ministers expected to petition in order to have the £9,000-a-year tuition fee cap scrapped in order for universities to charge higher annual rates, the Department for Education has insisted that the fast-track degree courses would ‘carry the same weight’ as the current degree model, which is usually three years, or a four-year long course with a year in industry or abroad. However, this would mean that universities could charge over £13,000 a year for a three-year course shortened to two, with a four-year course trimmed down to three rising to £12,000 a year.

These new fast-track courses would see the end of the traditionally long summer and winter breaks that students are usually granted throughout their three or four-year long courses in order to experience a faster, more demanding degree, which many see as a solution to complaints of too few contact hours at university. However, there are concerns regarding the workload for both students and staff, which could also ultimately risk the quality of the education on offer. Sally Hunt of the UCU is concerned about this in particular, noting that: “Our universities must remain places of learning, not academic sweatshops and the government needs to resist the pile ‘em high and teach ‘em cheap approach to students’ education.” 

While the Conservative government maintain that these fast-track courses are not a dilution of quality, rather a chance to save money and work in a faster-paced environment. Even the Russell Group are concerned, citing that while diversity and innovation are important, the traditional degree programmes currently in place “are generally the most appropriate at research-intensive institutions.”

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