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For teachers

Two-year degree courses: what we know so far

The government has proposed introducing degree courses that last two years instead of the traditional three - but why? And should you consider this route?


What are two-year degrees?

Two-year or accelerated degrees are exactly what they say on the label, degree courses that take two years to complete rather than the usual three or four years.

In a fast-tracked course, you would cover the same content and get the same qualification at the end as you would on a three-year course. But - as you'll see further below - there will be more to cover in a shorter period.

Probably the biggest talking point - as is usually the case - are the tuition fees. These would be the same as a three-year course, making two-year courses technically more expensive on a per-year basis. However, you would save money by not having to fork out for a third year of living costs.


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Where have two-year degrees come from?

The idea of two-year, fast-track degrees hasn't been plucked from thin air.

It's been piloted at the University of Derby, Leeds Beckett University, University of Northampton, the Medway Partnership in Kent and Staffordshire University in 2006. Looking further abroad, accelerated forms of degrees already exists across the pond in the United States and Australia.

The introduction of two-year degrees comes at a time when there have been concerns over how much contact time university students actually have with lecturers; the denser nature of a two-year course would suggest a closer relationship between students and staff.

Where and what can you study?

It's still early days. The two-year courses are still being developed with plans not being rolled out until 2020.

A few universities already offer fast-track degrees in some form, including the University of Buckingham, City University London and Leeds Trinity University.

Degree subjects that have already had the fast-track treatment include accounting, business management, business studies, English, finance, geography, law, marketing, tourism, and some joint degrees.  

How do two-year degrees work?

A two-year degree would have all the same modules and material as an equivalent three-year course - just in less time.

You would still have three semesters per academic year, but with shorter breaks in-between and little-to-no summer holidays. Say goodbye to the thought of a whole month on your parents' sofa, watching Netflix...

While this may sound like a raw deal, you would graduate and be work-ready quicker than those studying a three-year course - something which has its own merits.

How much will a two-year degree cost?

Two-year degrees could have their financial merits. Although they'll cost the same in tuition fees as a three-year degree (currently up to £9,250 per year) to cover the same content and get the same qualification, you wouldn't have to pay for living costs in your third year. Therefore, you'd save money here - and in any interest-accruing maintenance loans you would have taken out - for this extra year. So do some calculations to see whether you'd be better off.

Plus, by graduating in two years rather than three, you can begin earning an actual wage and start repaying your loans back sooner.

Who would benefit from two-year degrees?

A shorter course may be ideal for mature students juggling study with commitments like work and family, as a year less at uni would mean they were able to return to work quicker or possibly save a year's worth of childcare costs.

Students who live at home and are less connected to the social side of uni life - may choose the shorter route, especially if the end qualification is their main focus. 

Universities Minister Jo Johnson has suggested that two-year courses would be appealing to disadvantaged students, or those put off by the idea of studying at university for a whole three years. Some take the gap year option to give themselves a break from studying before going on to uni; but if this doesn't appeal and you'd rather jump straight in, a two-year course may feel more manageable.

Similarly, those with a clearer idea of what they want to do career-wise may feel that the shorter course structure gets them to where they want to be, sooner.

Will you miss out by taking a two-year degree?

To fit everything in a two-year course may mean less time for opportunities to supplement what you learn in lectures, like studying abroad, work placements or internships. How this impacts you as a graduate in the eyes of employers is something to strongly think about; for some fields, practical work experience is as important to employers as academic achievements.

You should also think about what the 'university experience' means to you. If it comes down to simply walking away with a qualification, a two-year degree could be the right fit.

But if you want the more traditional, overall university experience - that involves meeting new people, taking up new interests, working part-time and participating in the campus community - a two-year degree may not leave much free time for that.
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