No shortcuts

January 4, 2018

As I have not seen it mentioned in the recent coverage of two-year degrees (“DfE bids to raise English fee cap to £11K for two-year degrees”, News, 14 December), I would like to point out that reducing the length of study while covering the same work will reduce attainment if a course is already properly challenging. If the programme does not currently challenge students, then there is no problem – except that students will be short-changed.

In the late 1960s, several UK universities that had been colleges of advanced technology or polytechnics shortened their thin sandwich courses (six months of academic study and six months in industry alternating for five years) to cover the same work in four years by running the fourth and fifth semesters consecutively to give a 44-week final year. After 30 weeks, I was burned out.

At what is now City, University of London, two students opted to complete the degree in two and a half years. Although they were very bright, they just managed to scrape their degrees. The courses were designed to have more work than any student could cope with in any semester because the brain sifted through the concepts during the industrial period. By the start of the next semester, the brain was ready to absorb more.

Two-year courses already exist as Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas, and few jobs actually require a degree.

In the 1960s, a put-down for US universities was “you pay the fee, you get the B” – a bachelor’s degree. From my contact with the current output of UK universities, it seems that students in technical fields now “pay the fee to get the B, the M and the D” – that is, the bachelor’s, the master’s and the doctorate.

John Tasker
Sutton Coldfield

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