Tuition fees have long been a burden for university students. Furthering their employability and gaining general life experience comes at a high cost. Currently, students must pay £9,250 per year for a typical three-year degree. Then students need to account for money for the general cost of living. Following that, students graduate with a degree and thousands of pounds in debt. The government is offering accelerated degrees as a solution, but there is scepticism whether it will be beneficial.
After the announcement of the Autumn 2017 Budget, students were left disappointed when tuition fees were not addressed. There was certainly a sense of dejection because tuition fees have increased significantly. Students feel that they can’t afford to go to university. Overall, it seems like the crippling debt might not be worth the actual university experience.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson believes that he has offered a solution. Students in England are being offered the chance to undertake accelerated degrees. Instead of the standard three-year degree, students will be able to choose a course that only lasts two years. Johnson outlines that students could save £5,500 in tuition fees, with a 20% reduction compared to a three-year course.
The idea for accelerated degrees isn’t new. The proposal for two-year degrees happened earlier in the year, but the current version focuses on trying to have lower tuition fees for students. Students would still have to complete the same amount of work in an accelerated degree as they would a standard one. The teaching and supervision would also be the same, with the only difference being the time scale. This new fee arrangement aims to be in full affect by 2019 with the additional aim to help students get more value for their money. Currently, most students feel that they aren’t receiving an education that’s worth the tuition fees.
Mature Students Could Benefit
With the new system comes the possibility to attract larger numbers of mature students. If the chance to attend university at the age of 18 was missed, mature students can develop current and new skills whilst adapting to changes in the economy. An accelerated degree could enable mature students to go through higher education at a faster pace, so that they can balance commitments such as work and family.
Will Accelerated Degrees Actually Save Money?
The outline for accelerated degrees seems positive, however universities have warned that the proposed system might not be functional, and students will still be faced with high tuition fees. The current cap would be lifted so that students undertaking accelerated degrees will never be higher than students paying for standard degrees. As a result, annual fees could rise as high as £13,500. The main source of savings for students and the taxpayer will be from lower spending on maintenance costs, with funding needed for two years of student accommodation rather than three years. Students will still have to get loans for expensive tuition fees and be left with even higher amount of debt following graduation.
Accelerated degrees will also be expensive to run, with an immediate concern for the cost of additional teaching. Some universities have more flexibility than others. Most facilities will have to hire extra staff to effectively deliver teaching and assessment from June to September. There is also a main concern whether the quality of teaching will be maintained in such a restricted time frame. Attempting to deliver academic content and for students to complete enough private study may prove difficult to upkeep. Increased pressure will be applied to both staff and students and their ability to cope could be strained.
Accelerated degrees may work for different people in a variety of circumstances. Mature students or students that undertake a lot of their learning through work may find a shortened degree useful. However, students that are on course like humanities that require large amounts of work will struggle. The shorter time frame might be efficient, but students will be left with an intense period of study and little time for social development. Furthermore, the supposed savings are outweighed by the escalating cost of already expensive tuition fees. The government should focus on listening to students, who simply want the cost of their courses to be much lower.