MPs have backed legislation that could see the price of completing a two-year undergraduate degree rise to £11,100 a year, from the £9,250 per year of a traditional three-year course. Universities will be given the option to choose to charge students any fee up to the £11,100.
Accelerated two-year degrees allow students to graduate a year earlier than from the standard three-year programme, having undergone a more intensive academic structure.
The price students must pay to complete their degree early through this structure is £1,750 extra per year, with yearly fees of three-year degrees being capped at £9,250 per year. The larger fee is justified by greater amount of teaching time required for students to complete a two-year programme.
Overall, students on a two-year course will save £5,500 to complete their degree. The Department of Education has stated this also offers students the opportunity to save on maintenance costs they would have otherwise paid for a third year at university.
A hope is that the new optional system will ease the debt burden that students are left with after completing their degree.
Matt Waddup, head of policy at the University and College Union, has commented on the government’s need to fix a system that avoids such colossal debt.
“Instead of gimmicks which risk undermining the international reputation of our higher education sector, the government should focus on fixing the underlying problems with our current finance system which piles huge debts on students.
“This decision is not about increasing real choice for students, it is about allowing for-profit companies access to public money through the student loans system.
“Without proper safeguards, accelerated degrees will quickly become devalued, but the government shows no signs that it understands this.”
The Mancunion has reached out to students at the University of Manchester for comment on the proposed two-year degree system.
Eve Hudson, a third year Law student, says that two-years degrees “sound like a great idea in practice, but surely would just augment the pressure and stress levels students already face.”
The problem of a possible too-high workload has been echoed by shadow minister for higher education Gordon Marsden, as well as the further issue of the higher cost per year it will entail for students.
“The government have pressed ahead with the increase despite the very serious questions about access for disadvantaged students, workload for university staff and guaranteeing the quality of university education.”
Another worry is that rushing a degree could prevent students from getting the most out of their university experience.
“I just feel like cutting a degree by a third is cutting students’ time to make use of resources, access amazing facilities, and network with staff and students through different societies,” says third year Biomedical Sciences student Eamonn Corrigan.
“I’d love to be here for another year and meet more people.”
Some students, however, have posited that two-year degrees could allow for easier exam preparation.
Mark Burrell, an Electronic Engineering third year who is undertaking a four-year integrated master’s degree, says: “For my course I think this easily could be done. If they made them seven or eight week terms with exams at the end then the content would be fresher in my mind, with no real extra stress.
“Labs would be the only difficult thing, logistically.”
Two-year degrees are currently not offered by the University of Manchester but can be completed at 15 universities across the UK, including Northumbria University and Anglia Ruskin University.