Are two year degrees the future?

We look at compressed honours degrees, and find out whether three-year degrees are on their way out from higher education.

How do these two-year degrees work?

The fast-track degree compresses a three-year degree into two years by typically extending the teaching by 10 weeks. These 10 weeks generally combine face-to-face and distance learning, taking place during the summer holiday. Fast-track degrees are not intended to replace traditional degree programmes but rather add to the options for students.

Does quicker mean more straightforward?

Two-year degrees are no easy option. Because you’ll be studying the same amount of material as a traditional student, but in a shorter time, you’ll need to be dedicated and organised.

When and why did they come in?

Five universities introduced the compressed honours degree courses in September 2006. The move, which was first announced by Tony Blair in 2003, marked an effort to increase the proportion of people with higher education qualifications. The idea was to achieve this by offering a more flexible and cheaper way of studying a degree. Meanwhile, you only have to pay two years’ tuition fees and can cut accommodation and living costs by up to a third. Blair’s motivation also came from his desire to attract more overseas students to Britain.

Where and what can you study?

The two-year degree has been piloted at the universities of Staffordshire, Derby, Leeds Metropolitan, Northampton and the Medway Partnership in Kent. Subjects include geography, business studies, business management, accounting, finance, law, English, marketing, tourism and a range of joint-degree options.

Does fast-track learning exist anywhere else in the world?

Accelerated provision of degrees is common in the US, Australia and parts of Asia that have longer experience of tuition fees and modular courses.

Has there been any research into two-year degrees?

A report published by the Higher Education Academy and carried out by Sheffield Hallam University, came out in May. It found that students were generally very positive about two-year degrees, citing reduced costs and a quicker route to a job as the main benefits. The report also found that two-year degrees are valued by professional bodies – such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority – as well as employers. However, on a more negative note, the report found that universities have identified issues of staff workflow and administration. The Sheffield Hallam researchers concluded that the process of introducing two-year degrees is evolving.





What the experts say

Opinion is divided when it comes to two year degrees. We have asked a number of experts and students what they think about it.

The YES camp

Bill Rammell, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education

Fast-track degrees are part of the way we will expand and broaden access to higher education; no one mould suits everyone. The fast-track degree pilots are a powerful example of how higher education institutions can offer innovative new programmes that meet the needs of students and fit better with their circumstances. Research published by the Higher Education Academy shows that fast-track degrees are working for students and provide a quality product valued not only by employers but professional bodies too.

Dr Ian Brooks, Dean of the University of Northampton’s Business School

Two-year degrees can be very rewarding and can help differentiate you in highly competitive job markets. Students who successfully complete a two-year degree can clearly demonstrate they have the drive and dedication employers look for. Another direct benefit of this method of study is the opportunity to accelerate your career by moving into the graduate employment market – or postgraduate study – earlier. You can also reduce debts by paying only two years’ tuition fees and cutting accommodation and living costs by up to a third, make up a year before or save a year after your degree, or even change your career while taking the minimum time out of employment.

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters

With the widening participation in higher education and increasing levels of student debt, it’s inevitable that individuals will have different requirements in terms of flexibility. Shorter degrees are one way of adapting study to suit different personal circumstances, supporting the work/life balance and lifelong learning. As long as this reduced time does not affect degree quality, and if the student can demonstrate they have developed life and employability skills, there is no reason why recruiters will see two years as less valuable than three.

Daniela Santoro, 33, is studying a two-year degree in law at Staffordshire University

Two-year degrees are perfect for people like me. I’m aiming to become a barrister which is a long process, so doing the fast-track degree means I’ll get there a year quicker. I’ll also save money, as a two-year degree costs me £6,000 as opposed to £9,000. I think it will help me with employment too, because doing a two-year degree proves that you are committed and are able to work flat out. There’s so much support from the university that if, for any reason, I did decide it was too much, I could always switch over to the three-year degree in September.

The NO camp

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union

While we welcome more flexible approaches to higher education, we are concerned that trying to fit everything into just two years will diminish the whole university experience. University is about so much more than just getting students through their degree and out the other side. Worryingly, a lot of recent higher education policy seems much more concerned with the bottom line and treating students as commodities. Staff have seen their workloads increase massively over the last couple of decades and these proposals will do little to alleviate any concerns that their workloads are going to be seriously addressed. The industrial action we are taking is indicative of how bad things are at the moment.

Professor Peter Main, director of education and science at the Institute of Physics

There are several problems with two-year degree programmes. Firstly, in subjects such as physics, students encounter exciting but challenging concepts, such as quantum mechanics. A thorough appreciation of these topics requires time. Secondly, degrees are best taught by people who are active in research – most academics set aside the summer for research. If they lose it to teaching, they will necessarily diminish their research capability. Thirdly, the rest of Europe is moving to longer periods of study. A move to two years would carry no weight across the rest of the continent and could result in a loss of confidence in the UK system.

Judy Johnson, 21, is studying a three-year BA in media and communications at Goldsmiths, University of London

I think that a three-year course gives you more time to think about what your skills are and what careers are available to you afterwards. Most students still don’t know exactly what they want to do after university. During a three-year course you also have the chance to experience university life, which is important as you can develop hobbies and interests that you might not be able to if you were to cram a degree into two years. Finally, it takes time to settle into university and develop friendships, and it’s a growing-up period for most students.

Peter Reader, director of marketing and communications at the University of Bath

It’s clear, as UK higher education develops in the 21st century, that different universities need to serve different markets. At Bath, we place a strong emphasis on our students getting experience with employers as part of many degrees. Around 60 per cent of our undergraduates spend up to a year on such placements, in business and the public sector, as part of their degrees. This model would not be possible with degrees that are two years long.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: 1st Line IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpd...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Audit Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Audit Graduate Opportunities ar...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect