For many, all of us included, university is a rite of passage, an incredible journey that we are undertaking. From the lows of Freshers week, wondering bemusedly round campus attempting to find exactly where the pesky Coates Auditorium is, to the highs of third year and becoming a graduate with the world (hopefully) at our feet. As a recent graduate who decided to come back for more, my three years as an undergrad were the very clichéd best of my short life thus far. However, what would happen if those three years were reduced to just two? What if us students went from nervous Freshers to outstanding graduates in the blink of an eye?
This, of course, is what is currently being favoured by the government, with former Universities Minister and bro of Bo Jo, Jo Jo(hnson) proposing two-year degrees as far back as February 2017. The unique selling point of these two-year degrees is that they won’t be as long as three-year degrees, therefore meaning they will cost much less – a measly £22,200 compared to the astronomical £27,750 it currently costs students undertaking three years of higher education. This would also ensure a fee-free third year, where the graduate could be in employment, earning and not having to take out a dreaded maintenance loan for the third year on the trot.
“The chance to make friends for life, play on the sports team, live independently and even write for the university magazine is not one to be missed”
Some universities already run two-year courses, including the independent University of Buckingham, who offer to ‘fast-track your life’ with their accelerated learning style, which will cost students around £12,000 a year. However, many are sceptical about the viability of the two-year degree programme, with one news outlet calling it ‘an austerity degree’ implemented by an austerity party. Financial quibbles aside, the effect on university staff is also a key consideration. After protests, strikes and cuts already within many departments here at the University of Nottingham, who knows what the effect may be when an entire year is lopped off of the educational timeline? Would it be worth completing a shorter degree when the quality of teaching may suffer?
Similarly, for me, and for most of you reading this, the experience of being at university is the thing I enjoy the most (apologies to all lecturers reading this!). The chance to make friends for life, play on the sports team, live independently and even write for the university magazine is not one to be missed. I enjoyed it so much that I’m doing a MA, so two years simply may be a wasted opportunity for personal and professional development. The idea of a three-year degree is that the student progresses as the subject and tasks get gradually more complex, but in a compressed two-year experience it is possible that students may not become sufficiently proficient in their field before it is time for them to enter the big wide world. Indeed, many of the existing two-year courses are in business, education and journalism, and are heavily placement-based. Perhaps a science degree and all the specific knowledge that comes with it cannot be taught satisfactorily in a span of only two years.
“Think of all the mistakes made in first year and consider that they might actually count towards your degree.”
This brings me to holidays and vacation time. Whilst it is claimed, often negatively, that students have ‘a year and a half off’ throughout their university career, this time is often well spent. Whether travelling to broaden our horizons, learn new languages and skills, working to earn money, or undertaking work experience to figure out what the hell we want to do in life, vacation time is often a great supplement to university work, and also where assignments, coursework and exam revision take place. It’s not all a walk in the park kids.
So although the benefits of a two-year programme may be plenty, and may appeal to students who wouldn’t traditionally consider university due to the commitment to study, I cannot help but feel that the extra year is a necessity all students would prefer to have. Think of all the mistakes made in first year and consider that they might actually count towards your degree. Ouch.
Image courtesy of Alan Light via Flickr. License here.