If you have read any of my posts before, you may know that I am currently in my third and final year of studying English Language, with the end very much in sight. While University hasn't been the worst years of my life, I wouldn't say they have been the best either. It has been a long two-and-a-half years, and though I will be sad to leave the 'student life' behind, I am very much ready to become a real adult.
I have mixed feelings on the 'University experience', so upon taking an inevitable study break and scrolling through Twitter, my eyes flickered past the headline £14,000 tuition fees plan for two-year degree courses. Two year courses you say? What's the catch? My time as a student is nearly over, but I have a younger brother finishing his A-levels so am interested in any government changes that may affect him.
It seems the government are looking to implement change in the Higher Education system. However, after thoughtfully trebling fees from £3,000 to £9,000 and ensuring my generation will be in student debt for a large portion of our adult lives, I did not immediately jump with joy. In fact, I also read that Universities meeting targets under new teaching excellence framework (TEF) can sneak their tuition costs to £9,250. Interesting. How many times can they uncap a tuition cap?
Anyway. The Mail reported that under new government plans, Universities could soon be offering fast-track 2 year courses instead of the tradition 3/4 year courses that are currently available. This would mean potential undergraduates could complete their degree a whole year sooner.
Any time I accidentally fall into the Daily Mail's online site, I like to have a scroll down and read the comments section, as it never fails to entertain. There were a number of mixed reviews, some stating "two years is insufficient to create a good working profile", and others commenting it was "long overdue".
Personally, I think a two-year degree is a step in the right direction. For myself, and a lot of my friends, the 1st year at University is about 'equipping you for your further years of studies' and doesn't technically count towards your degree. In layman's terms, it is a year to get slaughtered 4 days a week and academically a waste of £9,000 plus living costs. Could I have skipped my first year and still had a good time while maintaining good grades? Probably. Contact hours at Universities across the UK, especially for Languages and Social Sciences are shockingly low, around 6-8 hours a week maximum for my school. This means I have enough time to write essays, work two days a week and have a social life.
Along with this, two year degrees make more sense financially. Although the total tuition loan would equal £28,000 (£1,000 more than the typical three year course), the average accommodation cost is around £5,000, with another few thousand on top for food, entertainment, travel, phone bill, laundry and so on. This means students, and their parents, would save around £6-7,000 in debt, and be ready to graduate a year earlier. Of course there's a flip side - would you be able to have as much fun, would teaching standards remain the same, would there be a stigma surrounding the shorter course?
By now, reading The DM and comments from its avid fans should not shock me. However, I was blown away by the number of users slating degrees and higher education. Whilst I am not promoting University as the only pathway to success and those on it spend their days drinking and sleeping, it is no stroll in the park. I may pick back up on this in a later blog post, so for now I will leave it as University is not easy. Ask any final year studying any course and they will confirm this.
Whether two year courses are a good idea or not remains to be seen, and the only way to find out is to implement them and see how students fare. Although the costs factor in, the reason we attend University (on the most part), is to better prepare us for adult, working life, so we should be provided with the best standard of teaching and support to prepare us for that. Emphasis on the should, Department of Education.