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Proposed shorter university courses to help cut costs for students

Credit: Times Higher Education

Two-year degree courses have been proposed by the Universities Minister, Sam Gyimah. The plans would see students paying £22,000 for two years of study instead of the currently capped £27,750 for three years of study.

The plan was first proposed to the government in 2017, however, it would require the current cap of £9,250 a year to be lifted, allowing for universities to charge £11,000 per year for two years of study. Whilst the cost will be higher per year for two year courses, they will be more intense, allowing for students to fast-track their degree with only 45 weeks of teaching.

Attempts to change the system come as a result of the declining numbers admitted to university in recent years; 2017 saw applications down by 11,000, an overall decline of 2%. In response, the government are aiming to increase the inflow of mature students as one cause of the problem is being blamed on the fewer amount of 18 year olds, down 2.3% in 2018. Two year degree courses are therefore seen as promoting flexibility, appealing to those with existing commitments.

Universities Minister, Mr. Gyimah, said that allowing the option to fast-track a degree would help improve access to higher education for “mature students and those who commute, who were previously locked out of higher education.” It is also hoped it will encourage universities to “offer dynamic choices that serve students’ needs.”

The speculation for the new proposal comes after the prime-minister’s review of post-18 education which suggested that tuition fees should differ according to subject. Arts and humanities were seen as worth charging £6,500 per year, whilst more expensive subjects such as medicine could be charged at £13,500 per year. However, tuition fees will not be confirmed until early next year.

New attempts to introduce reforms to tuition fees and degree structures come after fees continue to rise (£250 per year in the past two years). Two-year courses could see students saving over £5,000 on tuition fees alone; shorter courses will also allow for savings on accommodation and living costs whilst at university.

If the proposal gains approval, two-year courses may begin from 2019. Previous discussions have said that the government will aim for at least 5% of students to be taking two-year courses within 10 years.