Sadly, the undergraduate diploma doesn’t magically open an infinite number of doors for those who behold it. Naturally, having a degree does not mean you have acquired all the necessary skills to enter the workforce. Or at least, it surely won’t once students will have the option to ‘fast-forward’ through university life by taking two-year degree courses.
In the words of Jo Johnson, as he stated a year ago, these accelerated degrees are supposed to offer students considerable benefits such as getting into employment earlier. Well, isn’t this every eighteen year old’s dream? Our obsession with work is one of the biggest problems in our society. Most of our generation are beating themselves up for not being efficient and skilled enough. They are doubting themselves because we are worshipping the ‘workaholic’ culture, and yet the government sees no problem in accelerating this process.
By the time you get to your final year of University, expectations are high
What is even more alarming is the whole idea of transforming the complete intellectual and personal journey that is University into a sprint for work. Intellectually speaking, the natural progression from year to year is giving students enough time to explore their interests and gain proficiency in their domains. Whether they are spending their time in a science lab or reading, research is crucial to the Higher Education experience. And this is reflected in assessment as well. By the time you get to your final year of University, expectations are high. Two year degrees will only decrease the quality of student research as students will be forced to keep up with their fast-paced modules rather than investing time in subject matter that really interests them.
Moreover, on the personal level, the government seems to be forgetting that a student’s social life and wellbeing is just as important as their academic goals. First-year doesn’t count to your degree for a reason – as a fresher, you are disoriented, and you are beginning a new chapter in your life. An accelerated degree would give students no time to adjust. Furthermore, the time they will have to invest in their courses will ultimately mean sacrificing the time they could invest in extracurricular activities and sports. Student societies are extremely beneficial to student development as they teach transferable skills and make university complete.
The government pushes back against all these disadvantages by arguing that students will still be able to choose three year courses. Nonetheless, poorer students will be naturally pushed towards choosing two year degrees. This goes hand in hand with the government’s proposal to have different levels of fees for different courses. For those who barely afford going to university, the obvious choice will be taking up the fast-track degrees.
Poorer students will be naturally pushed towards choosing two year degrees
This type of accelerated degree wouldn’t even be more appealing than part-time courses to people who are already in work or have families. This aspect has been often stressed by the government. However, since the accelerated degrees will be more demanding than the regular ones, it doesn’t make sense to offer this option when the government could be investing more in professional and academic part-time courses. Not only do they allow part-time students to work, but they are also more flexible for those who have families to provide for.
The university sector has numerous real problems which are not being solved as the government is busy with coming up with ‘innovative’ ideas. From what I see, these quick fixes will only enlarge the gap between students who can easily afford higher education and those who cannot. It’s difficult to view these plans positively when students are being treated only as future workers. If the government’s intention is to make us into clockwork labourers, at least they could make sure we are having the time of our lives at university before we forever commit ourselves to the daunting 9 to 5.