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Lords approve two-year degree course plan but it might cost more than before


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Two-year degree course plans have been approved by the House of Lords.

More universities will offer accelerated two-year degree courses for students who want to 'fast-track their way into the workforce.' 

Students on these shorter courses will graduate one year earlier than normal. Teaching will take place across 45 weeks as opposed to 30 weeks for the standard three-year degree. 

However, an amendment outlined in the recent Bill will allow the Secretary of State to change the annual fee limit of the accelerated course.

The annual cost of a two-year degree (around £11,000) is higher than the £9,250 students currently pay for a standard three-year degree. However, students on the fast-track course will pay £5,750 less in the long run. 

According to the Higher Education and Research Bill, accelerated course providers lose income because students receive three years worth of education for the price of two.

'For a course accelerated from three years to two years, where the summer period is used for additional teaching, a provider can only charge a student for two years’ tuition at the current maximum fee cap, even though the student is receiving three years’ worth of tuition condensed over two years. 

'The provider misses out on the final year’s tuition and absorbs the increased cost of condensed tuition.'

The Bill highlights that setting a 'new cap fee... higher than the annual cap for its standard equivalent' would be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

Whilst two-year degrees is not a new concept, the practice is not widespread. The University of Buckingham has been offering two-year degrees for four decades.

Middlesex University also offers accelerated degrees, charging £9,250 for a fast-track Business Management course.

London Metropolitan University is enticing some fast-track students with up to 20% off their postgraduate degrees if they continue their studies with them. 

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students emphasised the attractiveness of the 'lower overall costs' of the shorter degree. 

However, there have been two previous attempts at rolling out accelerated learning with no expansion thereafter. 

The University and College Union (UCU) expressed concerns over the proposal, in particular, the 'marketised approach' suggested in the consultation.

They believe the previous agendas were driven by 'economic rather than educational objectives' and the same may hold true for the current proposal.

The UCU also cited that serious 'educational risks' are attached to the scheme including lack of holiday and reduced part-time work opportunities for economically disadvantaged students.

'There is an educational risk that fast-track programmes will make it harder for students to combine study with periods of reflection, critical thinking and a 'deep approach' to learning. These degrees are therefore likely to reduce the quality of the student experience.

Image credit: RMIT University

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