Having just finished the first term of my second year at Warwick, I can wholeheartedly affirm that the last 15 months have been the most significant of my life.
For me, university continues to serve as the perfect stepping stone between the cotton wool-wrapped comfort of childhood and the daunting responsibilities of the adult world, and the thought of graduating in six months’ time strikes fear into my very core. Luckily for me, this isn’t the case. However, it soon could be for UK university students, with Jo Johnson’s proposal of two-year degrees one step closer to coming into fruition.
Johnson has declared that such degrees will “break the mould” by being “more diverse and flexible” and saving students £5,500 worth of tuition fees. However, I believe that two-year degrees would in fact prove detrimental to the UK university experience by limiting the length of a vital chapter in students’ lives and increasing the already immense pressure that students face.
Shorter degrees would also mean that stress and worry over post-graduation plans, the thorn in the side of final-year students, would begin to rear its ugly head for freshers within weeks
These two-year degrees are set to squeeze in just as many contact hours and assignments as the standard three-year degrees currently offered by British universities. This prospect is alarming to say the least. Having experienced life at Warwick in term 3, I fully understand how much stress students suffer at the hands of essays and exams.
Shorter degrees would also mean that stress and worry over post-graduation plans, the thorn in the side of final-year students, would begin to rear its ugly head for freshers within weeks of starting university. With more intense schedules, worries about career plans, and much shorter holidays, the mental health crisis currently occurring in universities nationwide will only worsen if two-year degrees become a reality.
Furthermore, the academic demands of such degrees threaten to consume every facet of student life, putting other vital aspects in peril. When I moved into Warwick on arrivals weekend, too much stationery and not enough alcohol tolerance in tow, I wasn’t quite aware of how much university allows students to mature and develop. I soon realised that, in contrast to secondary school and Sixth Form, lectures and essays are just one part of university life. Other parts such as freedom, friendship, and involvement in volunteering and societies prove equally important in students’ progression.
Two-year degrees would mean that such extra-curricular involvement could be usurped by the demands of increased academic work
Being involved in both the Boar and French Society, I am aware of how societies provide invaluable skills that can’t be learnt from those pesky PowerPoint presentations our lecturers are so fond of. I can cheerfully skip seminar reading, or wing a Spanish test, safe in the knowledge that the only person I can let down is myself. However, when it comes to society responsibilities, I know that if I don’t pull my weight, I am letting down my friends and comrades who work tirelessly to make the societies successful. The fact that I prioritised writing this article over an essay is testimony to this. Some people may frown upon that, but I stand by it, because societies allow you to be part of a team and be relied upon in a way that prepares you for the real world more than any assignment you submit to Tabula ever will.
However, two-year degrees would mean that such extra-curricular involvement could be usurped by the demands of increased academic work, putting at risk both students’ enjoyment and their future employability.
I understand that for some people, especially mature students who can more feasibly dedicate two years to studying instead of three and those who see a degree as more of an obligatory step on a career path than an important life experience, two-year degrees will a welcome option, and that’s understandable.
However, for most students, for whom university is a period of self-discovery and a time to enjoy newfound freedom and friendships, a two-year degree will feel like an inferior option. Jo Johnson enjoyed three full years of university education. One would think he’d be able to appreciate why each of these years is valuable.