Faster and better: undergraduates on two-year track outperform three-year peers

June 18, 2010

Students who take two-year undergraduate degrees achieve better results than those who study for the standard three years, a conference will hear today.

An evaluation of the fast-track degrees carried out by Staffordshire University, which has more than 200 students enrolled on shorter programmes, found that on average such students received a higher degree classification than their three-year counterparts.

The evaluation, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, also found that retention rates on the two-year courses were good and that students were more “engaged” with their subject in the first months of university.

The findings, which were due to be presented at the Getting There by Degrees: Fast Track Degrees and Flexible Learning conference at the University of Plymouth today, also indicate that the two-year option is more attractive to mature students.

Steve Williams, director for academic development at Staffordshire, said fast-track courses were not “sold as an easy route – it’s a difficult route”.

He added: “It’s for committed students. Students who enrol on the fast-track degree save about £20,000 on the cost of enrolling on a three-year degree, in the tuition fee plus what they would earn in that time.”

Dr Williams, who is due to speak at the conference, also poured cold water on the suggestion that two-year degrees are a form of “dumbing down”.

“These awards are subject to the same quality assurance as all our other awards,” he said. “Those criticisms are often from the universities that do not offer two-year degrees, the pre-1992 universities.”

Dawn Whitemore, head of development at University of Derby Corporate, the institution’s commercial arm, is due to tell delegates that universities must provide flexible degrees to suit potential students already in the workplace.

She agreed that suggestions that fast-track courses were less intellectually challenging were misplaced. “We have to be honest, we still have pockets that are not comfortable with it, but that idea is an absolute mistake,” she said.

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