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Universities encouraged to offer two-year degree courses

Students in the UK will be given the opportunity to apply for two-year degree courses under new plans laid out by education ministers.

Universities will be given the option to offer these fast track courses to its students. New regulations, subject to Parliament approval, would also allow universities to raise the annual tuition fee from £9,250 to £11,150 for fast track degrees only, bringing the total cost over the two years to £22,300.

Universities minister Sam Gyimah suggested that there are “undeniable financial, academic and personal benefits” of the following plans, adding that it would also encourage universities to “offer dynamic choices that serve the students’ needs”.

It is hoped that two-year degree courses will reduce tuition and maintenance costs for students. A student’s tuition fee on an accelerated degree would be in the region of £5,500 less than those in three-year degree courses.

New regulations would allow universities to raise the annual tuition fee from £9,250 to £11,150 for fast track degrees only

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, viewed the plans positively, suggesting that they would “offer students the possibility of studying over a shorter period of time, at a lower overall cost.

“For many, they are likely to be an attractive option.”

Insiders at The Times have warned that universities are not equipped to offer shorter courses. With plans to offer two 45-week academic years of teaching, they warn that lectures and seminars would need to take place during the summer holidays and tutors would be left with little time to continue with writing and publishing individual research.

Initial consultations on these new plans commenced in December last year where Jo Johnson, who at the time was the minister of universities and science, said he wanted to “break the mould” of a system in which three-year degrees have “crowded out” any more flexible ways of studying.

In response, Russell Group director Dr Tim Bradshaw said that “they welcome the Government’s commitment to ensure appropriate financing for accelerated degree courses”.

He said, however, that three-year degree programmes are the “most appropriate” at research-intensive institutions.

He added: “Careful consideration will be needed for how these accelerated courses are delivered so that they don’t negatively affect student learning or compromise the overall undergraduate experience.”

Consultations on the following plans have now concluded and ministers plan to present regulations, including the rise of annual fees for accelerated degrees, for Parliament approval before becoming law.

Ministers will also be developing a programme of further work to “raise understanding and awareness of the reality of accelerated degree provision, study and graduation, including information and guidance addressing concerns and misconceptions raised in responses to this consultation.”

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