Two-year degree courses could soon be the norm for students after the trebling of tuition fees next year, says a report published today. The new courses would cost students less without reducing the amount of teaching time they received, the independent think tank CentreForum said.
Its prediction comes in the wake of growing evidence of student debt. A new survey by Lloyds TSB shows one in six students say they do not have enough money to meet their expenses. The report calls for a split between "regular" research institutions and universities, which concentrate on teaching. About one-third of these, including Oxford and Cambridge, would become high-quality research institutions, still charging students the £9,000-a-year maximum fee to study there, while the rest became teaching-only institutions.
Gill Wyness, a researcher who produced the report, said: "The Government badly needs to find a way of keeping fees at levels affordable for both students and the taxpayer." This would mean a two-year degree course costing less than the traditional three-year course.
With "regular" universities concentrating on teaching and reducing the research, academics could easily find more time for teaching. Staff would teach throughout the year rather than take long summer holidays.
"There are around 24 weeks in the average university year, meaning universities run around 72 weeks of teaching in total over three years," the report says. "This could easily be condensed into 36 weeks per year over two years – which would still allow for holidays and marking."
It argues that a two-year course could cost a university as little as £10,000 per student.
The report advocates students enrolling at middle-ranking universities or further-education colleges to study degree courses set by the top-ranked institutions. "By allowing only a select number of highly prestigious institutions or academic bodies to award degrees, students would easily be able to compare courses offered at different institutions," the report says.