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What are two-year accelerated degrees?

Accelerated degrees squeeze a full undergraduate course into two years and can save students money in the long run. You may hear more about these fast track courses in the future...

We take a closer at this alternative route to a full-fledged degree. They could save you a pretty penny.

What are accelerated two-year degrees?

An accelerated degree (sometimes referred to as a 'fast track' degree) takes your average three-year undergraduate degree course and condenses it down into a shorter two years instead. 

Two-year degrees are already a thing at a few UK institutions, but the House of Lords has approved plans (January 2019) to expand these from September 2019. The aim of this more flexible option is to attract students who want a degree, but don’t want to spend a whole three years at university to get it.

There’s a financial incentive, too. While universities will be able to charge higher annual tuition fees for this more intensive two-year degree – up to 20% more than for a three-year degree – students will save money on these over time.

Plus, they’ll only have living costs for two years as opposed to three years. That’s a whole year of rent, food, transport that they won’t need to think about.

Don't think a traditional three-year degree is for you? Learn about degree apprenticeships or foundation degrees instead.
 

Accelerated degrees: pros and cons

Pros

  • If you want to get a degree under your belt as soon as possible, but don’t fancy being at university for a full three years (after finishing school), an accelerated degree might seem less overwhelming. You could always use that third year to go travelling or do a gap year.
     
  • You’ll save a large chunk of cash in the long run by only taking out two years’ worth of tuition fees (although these are higher per year for two-year courses) and maintenance support. 

    See how much you'll need to live on at uni (and what you could save with an accelerated degree), with our student budget calculator.
  • Not bothered about the social aspect of university life? A two-year degree is much more intensive, with less time for that sort of thing (not to say that it doesn’t exist at all).

    If you’re already considering living at home and commuting to classes, go a step further and look into an accelerated degree too.
     
  • Mature students who have other commitments may jump at an accelerated degree. Juggling studies with children (or other dependants) can be tricky, while the costs that come with doing so (ie childcare, transport) can stack up. Plus, working part-time might not be an option, or limited at best.

    Getting your degree and going back to work sooner – hopefully earning a little more as a result of qualifying – will make a big difference.

What student finance can you get? Learn about what fees you'll pay, finance that's available and more.
 

Cons

  • University doesn’t just boil down to your course, although it is a big decision. The 'uni experience' is also made up of meeting new people (eg friends, housemates), living in a new place, joining clubs and societies, and getting involved in the campus or local community.

    Packing three years of a course into just two is far more intensive, and may leave less time for other parts of student life.
     
  • Depending on your subject, getting work experience may be essential to impressing employers and getting a graduate job. A two-year course may not leave as much time for this.



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    Which universities offer accelerated degrees currently?

    Not many universities offer them right now. Those that do include Staffordshire University, University of Buckingham and University of Salford

    However, given recent developments, you may see more universities offering them across a wider range of subjects and courses.

    Got a subject in mind to study at uni? Learn more about it, check out our subject guides.
     

    What the experts say about two-year degrees

    Universities UK has applauded the move towards more flexible ways of studying, such as for mature students with families:
    If these changes help encourage even more flexible modes of study and meet the needs of a diverse range of students and employers, they are to be welcomed.

    While accelerated degrees could meet the needs of some students and their families, it is important to remember that there are a high number of individuals wishing to learn while they work and for whom more flexible ways of learning are needed.

    We would like to see greater support for students balancing learning while they work.
     

    Meanwhile, the Russell Group has been more pessimistic, reminding everyone of the finance available, as well as the importance of things like work experience that complement a qualification:
    The government's own projection for the likely take-up of these degrees is modest and we actually hear many students calling for four-year degrees, for example, to spend a year on a work placement or studying abroad.

    I wouldn't want disadvantaged students to rule out a traditional three-year course because they didn't believe they could afford it.

    Up-front support with living costs is available and graduates repay their student loans based on their earnings.

    Doing a more compressed degree also reduces the opportunity for part-time work, potentially increasing short-term financial pressure.

    Also, they may only be referring to students at Russell Group universities when mention hearing from ‘many students’, which is a small sample of all universities and doesn’t consider other factors, such as what these students are studying.
     

    What students say about two-year degrees: Q&A

    We spoke to three students at the University of Buckingham, who are currently studying accelerated degrees, to get their thoughts on studying a shorter version of their course:

    W? University: Why did you decide to do an accelerated degree?

    Samantha (Communication, Media and Journalism student): ‘I have never been a fan of standard three-year degrees, because of the cost, holiday and lack of contact time, but then again, I knew I needed a degree. When I found out about two-year degrees I was relieved, because I knew I would get out to work quicker than my peers, and it would truly test my abilities in the best way possible. And I’d save some money!’
     
    Henry (English Literature with Journalism student): ‘I’d already done a year at Brighton, and I didn’t want to reapply and have to spend four years at uni.’ 
     

    W? University: When did you first hear about accelerated degrees?

    Samantha: ‘I was speaking to a neighbour who studied law at the university, and he mentioned that he obtained his full law degree in two years. It was at that moment I knew exactly where I would go, so I finalised my statement and applied straight away.’
     
    Sukninder (Communication, Media and Journalism student): ‘I first heard about this when I was in college through my father, who had taught a previous student of Buckingham to drive.’ 
     

    W? University: Have you seen a financial benefit to studying an accelerated degree?

    Samantha: ‘My bank account is definitely grateful that I am doing a two-year degree. Standard universities charge £9,000 per year, so in total it’s £27,000. The new proposals will allow universities to charge £11,000 per year, meaning it’s only £22,000 in total. Plus, if you substitute an extra year’s living costs, you’re saving way over £10,000.’

    Kathryn (Communication, Media and Journalism student): ‘As an international student, the fees aren’t any cheaper. But in the long run, I will save money on rent and food.’
     
    Henry (English Literature with Journalism student): ‘Works out cheaper in every aspect.’


    Calculate your living costs
    See how much you'll need to live on at your chosen university, with our student budget calculator.
    See your living costs
     

    What are the differences in terms of course structure and how you learn on a two-year course, compared with a three-year course?

    Samantha: ‘We have four terms instead of three, which means we have the same amount of workload per week but just an extra teaching term. 
     
    We also have more contact hours (around 12 hours per week) which is far more than standard universities, which means I am certainly getting my money’s worth in comparison to others.’
     
    Sukninder: ‘We don’t have a three-month break over summer like other universities. This to me is a good thing as I always got agitated with having that much time off. 
     
    Kathryn: ‘I definitely feel like the work burden is larger trying to condense what is usually three or four years into two years, but it’s nothing I haven’t overcome.’
     
     
    Learn more about studying your subject at degree-level, including contact hours and student comments browse our subject guides.
     

    Has studying an accelerated degree impacted your social life or life outside of uni?

    Samantha: ‘You do have to make sacrifices when choosing to do a two-year degree. However, it doesn’t mean you’re a hermit stuck in the library all weekend. Many students partake in work experience, have part-time jobs and are often out with their friends.
     
    It’s just ensuring you prioritise your time correctly. I tend to study from 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday, to ensure it doesn’t affect my social life.’
     
    Sukninder: ‘It keeps me quite busy, and can make it difficult to go home and to plan things for the weekends in case I get called back here.’
     
    Henry: ‘It has [impacted my social life], but good mates understand that you don’t have as much time as you did before. C’est la vie.’
     
    Kathryn: ‘As an international student, my entire life is really surrounded by uni. I find time to hang out with [my friends] no problem. I also have two part-time jobs and have taken on more responsibilities (yet I still find time to binge Netflix).’
     

    Search for a degree course now (and see if there’s a two-year version).

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