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11th December 2017

Manchester University “uncertain” two-year degrees will benefit disadvantaged

Several students have voiced concerns over whether students would get the same holistic all-round University experience during a two-year course

The University of Manchester has told The Mancunion that it is “uncertain” two-year degrees will improve student experience or help to attract disadvantaged students.

Several Manchester University students have also criticised the proposals, questioning whether the proposals would benefit applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as whether students would get the same all-round experience during an intensive two-year course.

Universities Minister, Jo Johnson MP, will allow Universities in England to charge up to £14,000 a year for fast-track two-year degree courses under current government plans, expected to be implemented by 2020.

A University of Manchester spokesman told The Mancunion: “The University of Manchester does not currently offer two year intensive undergraduate programmes, though we will keep this under review.

“Our current thinking is that there would be considerable challenges for a research intensive university to run two year undergraduate programmes alongside three year programmes.

“We also think and that the benefits for improving student experience and attracting disadvantaged students are uncertain.”

Jo Johnson MP said they would not mean a “flight” from traditional three-year courses rather would offer an alternative for those with different circumstances, needs and wants.

The Universities minister said: “Take from example, someone who is in their mid to late twenties, who didn’t go to university, who has already been in the workforce but wants an opportunity to retrain and acquire a level of skills they haven’t got.

“They don’t want to spend three years studying and want a faster pace of learning than the classic three year model would allow.”

The Universities Minister suggested that two-year degrees would not only be attractive to mature students but disadvantaged students too, due to the saving of one year’s living costs, though this claim has been questioned by the University of Manchester and its students who are sceptical about the proposals.

Commenting on the proposals, Rosie Latchford, a Politics and Philosophy student at the University of Manchester, said: “I think it’s an awful idea. It will reduce the standard of education, less well off students might be pushed towards taking these kinds of degrees whilst well-off students continuing to study for three years only increasing what is already a massive problem, education inequalities.

“Why not just lower what is a ridiculous cost to pay for an undergraduate degree rather than doing stuff like this?”

Matthew Worswick, a third-year Theological Studies in Philosophy and Ethics student, told The Mancunion: “I don’t like the idea, trying to cram stuff into two years wouldn’t work at all. And that’s talking purely academically, let alone all the personal development that happens over the three years.”

The Department for Education has suggested that students on an “accelerated” degree course would save 20 per cent in tuition fees compared to peers on a traditional three-year course.

Two-year degree courses are already offered by a few Higher Education institutions present, with government analysis suggesting around 2,5000 undergraduates opt for a fast-track degree.

The proposals are aimed to give greater financial incentive to both students and Universities to offer “accelerated” degree courses.

Imogen Gray, a University of Manchester student, said: “Universities haven’t adopted these two year degrees maybe because unlike the Tories they see the holistic experience university should be, not just being trained or taught as quickly as possible so you can go out and work, so you can pay your taxes and pay off your huge student loans.

“You have 60 plus years to be working after university why the hell would you want to ‘fast track’ anything.”

University of Manchester PhD student and former Durham University undergraduate Jack Barton, added:” I buy the argument for mature students – that is fair. Sounds like an awful idea for those just starting university unless you only care about the piece of paper at the end.

“We had a saying in Durham, ‘Don’t let your degree get in the way of your education’ and longer, cheaper, degrees will facilitate this – not this rubbish.”

Jack added that the proposals were “a step above the insulting millennial railcard but only just”, referring to the announcement in the 2017 Autumn Budget of a railcard which entitles holders to a third off all rail tickets for those aged between 25 and 30, akin to the 16-25 railcard, which also faced criticism from several students at the University of Manchester.

Despite the widespread criticism from students at the University of Manchester, there were some students who welcomed the proposals.

Luke Dykes, a Physics with Theoretical Physics student at Manchester University, said: “It gives students more choice and freedom over their own education. We therefore, will have more of an opportunity to pursue our future goals.

“For some people two year degrees may be a bit tough, but for others a three year degree is far too slow so allowing the student to decide what length they want to pursue makes a lot of sense.”

Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner MP, said that was “no concrete evidence” the proposals would benefits students and viewed the proposals as “another plan to raise tuition fees.”

The Ashton-under-Lyne MP said: “It seems that every higher education policy from this government comes with another plan to raise tuition fees, with students on part time degrees now facing charges of over £11,000 a year.

“With universities facing uncertainty over Brexit, ministers must address concerns like the impact on staff workload before imposing more major changes.

“So far they have offered no concrete evidence that squeezing three years of learning into two will stem the huge drop in part-time students, or lead to better outcomes.”

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