/ Money, Parenting

Can you study for a degree in two years?

studying at uni

Would a two-year degree make financial sense or would it be too rushed?

The government has revealed plans for ‘fast-track’ degree courses that take two years to complete rather than the usual three.

Although the fees would be the same, students would save money by not having to fork out for a third year of living costs.

The idea isn’t new: the US, Australia and some parts of Asia already have accelerated forms of degrees.

So, like taking an intensive driving course to get a licence in a fraction of the time, can the university experience be condensed into two years? And should it?

Finances

As an 18-year-old from a large family, going to uni meant moving to a whole new city and acquiring a newfound sense of freedom. For me, two years just wouldn’t have been enough.

That said, my student loans and tuition fees back then were considerably less than students studying in England face today, which can be up to £28,000.

With non-repayable grants no longer available to help with living costs, two-year degrees could have their financial merits.

Mature students juggling studying with work and family would also benefit from the shake-up, as a year less spent at uni would mean a year less spent on childcare costs.

Similarly, students who live at home, perhaps less connected to the extracurricular aspects of uni life and more focused on the qualification at the end, may welcome a shorter degree.

Uni options

But would you miss out on the ‘uni experience’?

Or perhaps a four-year course, where you spend a year studying abroad or working in your chosen industry, would suit you better.

Taking it back to the driving analogy, maybe uni should be a ‘means to an end’ if you know the direction you’re going in and can get on your chosen path quicker.

Would a two-year course suit you or would you prefer to study for longer? If you’re a parent of a student who’s off to uni soon, would it be a good option for your child? Or, if you could have your time again, would you choose this route?

Comments
Member

I cannot see how two years in Physics, Mathematics, Engineering or Chemistry – to name but four – could possibly be as rigorous as a three year course, without extending the actual term times at the very least. It’s a sticking plaster remedy, IMO.

Member

It’s possible by having three semesters instead of two, but that puts students under more pressure and denies them the time to become more mature and take advantage of the social experience of going to university.

I do appreciate the financial issues and it is very sad that student loans effectively acclimatise young people to living in debt. My answer is to restrict university places to those who can demonstrate the commitment and aptitude for study, and to pay their fees. We are wasting a great deal of money funding those who are not interested in their studies and for various reasons and inhibiting the achievements of the better students.

Member

I agree with you Wavechange and with Ian. I don’t think intellectual compression is the way forward. It occurs to me that we have virtually run out of workers in this country and some further merit-based restrictions on entry would be helpful to the economy. I do not agree with student loans and think that courses should be free of charge to eligible UK students. I am sure universities could do a lot more to reduce their operating costs but shortening degree courses should not be one of them,

I ask this quite openly, and without prejudice : How valuable is “the social experience of going to university”? And is it better than starting work? I mingle with a number of undergraduates and some of them, even at age 21, are quite juvenile, ill-mannered, and lacking in normal social etiquette and respect for others. There are also many exceptions to that generalisation but I am uncomfortable with the notion that a three-year university course is the best preparation for adult life. The eventual realities of the workplace must come as a massive shock to some.

Member

For some students part of their course demands working on a project during the long breaks between terms. Generally, however, I would like to see students take on “holiday” jobs related to their course, to get an understanding of the real world, of work, of interacting with others both socially and professionally. I spend a large part of one long break working on maintenance in a power station, seeing practical issues and being looked after by people who did this for a living.

If we had the resources I would also support free further education, but money needs to be spread first to priority causes. If going to university is seen as an investment in your personal future then making a contribution towards it – a commitment to your education – seems reasonable. However, I would like to look at graded contributions, so that those pursuing less useful degrees end up paying towards them, even if they don’t earn the minimum salary. and in contrast, subsidise those who pursue the courses that will contribute to this country’s future. Perhaps I could contrast media studies and some of the arts with engineering, science and medicine?

Member

Different degrees require different amount of application. A music degree, for instance requires (if it’s practically based) around six hours practice per day, which is why when doing my first degree the Local Authority gave vacation grants to music students to obviate the need to find work during the holidays.

In terms of fees, I would make all university fees free, but ensure there was a strictly operated meritocratic entrance procedure. Fees don’t represent a large proportion of costs for a student. Most are accommodation and living costs, so making fees free would be relatively painless. Always wondered why Clegg didn’t force that through when the Liberals were in coalition with the Tories.

Now, I know Malcolm will reiterate his concern that there’s not enough money, but I’ve already stated my belief that that’s a fallacy, propagated by certain politicians and, in fact, there’s a school of International Economics thinking that argues in favour of significant expenditure by governments, since unanticipated results can emerge, and often inflation remains very low.

There’s another reason we should make all universities fee-free. In effect, we’re investing in the national structure, by producing a highly educated workforce. We’re an inventive nation and our engineers, architects, mathematicians, doctors and physicists are among the vanguard of the world’s best. In the years to come we’ll be exporting expertise and skills. The days of exporting clothes and toys have gone.

Perhaps more controversially, I’d st up a commission to examine the types of courses being offered at degree level. I’m not at all sure that Embroidery qualifies but, oddly, it exists.

Member

We seem to agree that some degrees are more worthwhile than others. You might describe some as “hobby degrees” where students don’t pursue a career (so earn no, or little, salary) afterwards. They then pay nothing towards them, which seems unfair on those who do.

If money was not an issue we would have the best funded health service, education system. social care, police……in the world. I do believe that we need to actually earn money as a nation to produce taxation to fund these. We were bankrupt after WW2 because of the cost of funding the war effort.

Whilst economics seems more of a art (black or red) than a science, i don’t know of any economy that survives by ignoring the need to work (or sell natural resources) to produce taxes.

Member

Having school leavers go straight into higher education has been used by successive governments as a way of keeping down the unemployment figures. I would prefer to see school leavers work for at least part of a year to be eligible for a place. This can help greatly in allowing young people to become more mature and to focus on what they want to do with their lives. Some use a break as an opportunity to accumulate funds to help avoid getting into a life of debt thanks to having to pay university fees. For goodness sake scrap the fees, cut down the number of places and give them to those who are able to demonstrate ability and commitment, otherwise standards are dragged down by having to try and make the best out of the ‘passengers’ who are expecting a degree for attendance – and sometimes not very good attendance.

I think there is plenty of money too, but maybe it’s not shared out very well.

Member

I have noticed that the third sentence of my previous post in this Conversation is open to misinterpretation. It should have said “It occurs to me that we have virtually run out of workers in this country and some further merit-based restrictions on entry to university would be helpful to the economy.