The recent government proposals for ‘fast track degrees’, a new degree programme that would see students paying more than £14,000 a year to obtain an undergraduate degree in just two years, has been met with a controversial reception from students and higher education officials.
The University of Bristol has claimed that it is ‘too early for us to comment at this stage’, however many Bristol students have expressed strong opinions against the proposals of higher fees for shorter, more intensive courses with less holiday.
Hannah Korn, a of the University of Bristol’s mental health society, Peace of Mind, has condemned the notion of ‘fast track’ degrees as ‘a bad idea’, saying that it ‘will put more strain on students, both mentally and physically’.
One Biology masters student echoed these wellbeing concerns. ‘As if students aren’t pressure-cooked enough! It would be interesting to see how this would affect mental health.
‘It’ll be the next thing people ‘have’ to do if they want to be a high achiever. I guess it’s an option for some but I don’t think it’s healthy’.
Marco Barbato, a Politics and International Relations student, said: ‘Three years is already very little, and having only two years does not give you an opportunity to adjust to university standard assessment before they actually start to count.
‘You already have masters [degrees] which are one or two years and they should be for specialisation, whereas [undergraduate] degrees should be more general and cover more ground.
‘I also think fast-track degrees will unnecessarily increase competitiveness on the job market, meaning that some people may choose to do a fast track just because they’ll be able to access the job market earlier.’
Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities, has argued that fast track style courses would be more attractive for mature students and underprivileged students. Shorter courses would mean that students would save a whole year’s worth of living and accommodation costs.
Jason Parkash, a third-year medic, criticised this appeal to value for money.
‘I don’t think anyone feels they’re paying for £9000 worth of actual teaching/resources every year, even if you do end up getting paid more in the future for it. So, I can’t see anyone thinking £14,000 for a two-year fast track degree would be worth it either’.
Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the University and College Union, said the courses risked creating a ‘pile ‘em high and teach ‘em cheap’ culture.
‘As well as placing a huge burden on staff, these new degrees would only be available to students who could study all year round,’she said. ‘Our universities must remain places of learning, not academic sweatshops.’
One Neuroscience student who also holds an undergraduate, masters and PhD in Chemistry, elaborated on these issues.
‘I’m concerned that the two-year courses might devalue three year courses over time. Whilst I think that it’s good to potentially get rid of the on-the-whole waste of time that they call first year, many people need to find their footing in higher education beforehand so that they can satisfactorily progress.
By cramming three year degree into two years, government at last fulfil their promise to suck the last vestiges of enjoyment from education
— HaveIGotNewsForYou (@haveigotnews) February 24, 2017
‘Another issue is that of academic staff who are already over-stressed with their current workload. I’m concerned that their work will be too thinly spread if they take on more students who are required to do even more amounts of work… There’s a threat to quality of teaching and learning there.
‘However, one good thing is that it will push young people into employment more quickly,’ they added.
Martina Beleva, Arts Faculty Rep, commented: ‘I hate it when governments make education a money- making scheme.’
Sam Young, a Mathematics and Economics student, disagrees. ‘As long as they have completely the same amount of work as the three-year courses then I don’t see an issue.’
What do you think of the two-year degree proposals?