Two-year degree will raise costs and workloads, say
The Times April 19, 2006
UNIVERSITIES will press the Government to increase their levels
of funding so that they can deliver fast-track degrees.
While students and lecturers welcomed the greater flexibility,
concerns were raised that universities could lose out over the
shorter courses without government compensation. The Times
reported yesterday that students would be able to gain an honours
degree in only two years as part of a “study anytime” revolution for
With the introduction of top-up fees, due in the autumn, five
colleges will offer the compressed honours degree courses. The move
is designed to encourage applications from poorer students, who are
put off by the £3,000-a-year tuition fee, payable after graduation.
From September, students at Staffordshire University,
Stoke-on-Trent, will be able to study English, geography, law and
product design in two years instead of three.
With more than a third of its students coming from working class
homes and 97 per cent from state schools, the former polytechnic is
at the forefront of widening participation. The undergraduates will
pay £6,000 for the two-year course, instead of £9,000, and will
incur a year’s less living expenses.
“We see this as something the sector has to accommodate in the
new market,” said Stephen Williams, from Staffordshire University,
who is overseeing the two-year pilot.
Details are being finalised at Staffordshire, Derby, Leeds
Metropolitan, Northampton and the Medway Partnership, but Dr
Williams said that the degrees would be sustainable only if the
Government’s funding formulae were flexible.
“The Higher Education Funding Council (Hefce) for England is
reviewing the funding methods which we hope will take into account
the greater flexibility — because the irony is that universities are
encouraged to be more flexible, but Hefce is mitigating against it,”
he said. The five colleges are being paid to conduct the pilots, but
Hefce said that, if the courses amounted to less revenue, few
universities would be willing to offer them.
“That is indeed one of the questions which will have to be
asked,” a spokesman said.
Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of
Teachers and Lecturers, said that the new degrees would most likely
appeal to those hoping to minimise their debts.
“One of the problems is that students get taught for a very small
part of the year — some students can be taught for less than half a
year — so it would be worth trying to have a more concentrated
year,” she said.
Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the Association of
University Teachers, said: “Staff have seen their workloads increase
over the last couple of decades and these proposals will do little
to alleviate any concerns that their workloads are going to be
Tony Blair announced yesterday a £7 million recruitment drive to
stem the flow of overseas students to new universities, especially
in the Far East.
He wants to attract 100,000 more to Britain over the next five
years and to encourage links between British universities and
colleges and those