By Anna Tatham
Durham University has said it is “open to exploring the possible benefits” of two-year degree programmes, which would save 20% on tuition fees compared with a three-year course.
Universities Minister Sam Gyimah has confirmed plans for universities to provide shorter, more intensive two-year courses, which would cost around £11,000 per year, saving around £5,500 in total compared with a three-year course.
A fast-track degree would consist of two 45-week years of teaching, meaning students would have to borrow less to cover fee costs and would save on a year’s living costs and accommodation.
Universities minister Sam Gyimah argued that there are “undeniable financial, academic and personal benefits” of the following plans, and suggested it would encourage universities to “offer dynamic choices that serve the students’ needs”.
However, insiders argue that universities are not equipped to offer shorter, more intense courses, meaning that lectures and seminars could be held in the summer holidays, and tutors may not have enough time for research, according to The Times.
Raising annual tuition fees above £9,250 would also require Parliamentary approval – if successful, such courses could operate from next year.
Mr Gyimah also said accelerated degrees would help improve access for “mature students and those who commute, who were previously locked out of higher education”.
Professor Alan Houston, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) has said: “There are a number of reasons why full-time, three-year degree programmes are generally the most appropriate at research-intensive institutions like Durham.
“However, we are open to exploring the possible benefits and necessary compromises which two-year degree programmes would entail.”
Yet the head of one of the first universities to offer two-year degrees over 40 years ago has suggested universities will find it hard to adapt to the two-year degree structure.
Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said: “Two-year degrees are a more efficient and cost-effective method for students to get on with their careers and their lives.”
But he said: “Universities offering three-year degrees will find it difficult to restructure.
“We would like the universities minister to engage in discussions with us in order to assist independent providers who offer two-year degrees.”
Seven of the nine candidates running to be NUS delegates for Durham Students’ Union vehemently opposed the prospect of supporting two-year degree courses.
Photograph: British High Commission, New Delhi via Flickr