Can ‘accelerated’ degrees attract students who might not be able to otherwise afford university?
The UK government has recently backed Sam Gyimah’s proposal to introduce an option for two-year ‘accelerated’ university degrees.
Although he has now resigned from his post as Universities Minister, Gyimah’s proposal was designed to make university education accessible for more people, such as those who would not be able to otherwise afford it.
What is the proposal?
Former Universities Minister Sam Gyimah (centre)
Accelerated degrees will consist of two academic years, as opposed to three or more, with 45 weeks of teaching per year.
Parliamentary approval is needed to raise the annual fee cap above £9,250-per-year but Gyimah hoped to implement accelerated degrees from the next academic year.
But is this government proposal likely to be an effective solution for making university education more accessible?
Despite paying a higher annual fee, students on the fast-track degree pay roughly £5,500 less in tuition fees overall, which could tempt more to consider university study.
Maintenance and living costs are also reduced if you spend two years, rather than three or four, at university.
Accelerated degrees also sound appealing to mature students.
For students who are purely focused on obtaining relevant qualifications for work, a shorter, intensive course allows them to achieve their goals without unnecessary delay.
Moreover, this gives students diversity in their choices; there are options available ranging from two-year to four-plus-year courses, depending on one’s personal preference.
Students sign up for clubs and societies at university.
The university experience gives many the opportunity to find like-minded friends, to join societies, to partake in sports, and to spend time bridging the gap between dependency and independent living.
With two 45-week academic years, there is very little time to engage in any extracurricular activity.
Furthermore, many students use their spare time to find employment.
While two-year degrees allow you to save on tuition fees, they make it harder for students to financially support themselves.
For prospective students from underprivileged backgrounds, Gyimah’s proposal offers a cheaper long-term alternative but fails to cater for the student’s immediate financial state.
By significantly reducing the amount of free time that a student has, this proposal fails to acknowledge the social, mental, and financial well-being of students.
For potential students who cannot afford three-year university study, accelerated degrees - in their current state - do not appear to offer a feasible alternative.
Until this fast-track degree proposal accounts for the short-term support that many students would need while at university, they will struggle to open new doors for their less-advantaged target market.