Flexible learners are on fast track to success

Students on accelerated two-year degrees often performed better than those on traditional three-year degrees, a report has said.

March 15, 2012

The study by the Higher Education Academy examined the success of a pilot project at eight modern universities, which were each given at least £250,000 by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to develop fast-track degrees in subjects including law, business, accountancy, marketing and English.

Only a small number of students took part in the Flexible Learning Pathfinder scheme between 2005 and 2010 (70 enrolled in 2006-07, rising to 390 in total in 2008-09) but they tended to outperform their peers on three-year courses, the report said.

Anglia Ruskin University said 30 per cent of students on its intensive courses were set to gain first-class honours, while 40 per cent were on track to gain a 2:1, with academic achievement "slightly higher" than that of three-year students.

Gloucestershire, Plymouth and Staffordshire universities also found fast-track students had higher marks than those on conventional courses.

However, the report added that students on such courses were generally highly motivated, older and "not typical undergraduates". Anglia Ruskin reported that many students were employed in relatively low-skilled jobs, which could be why they were "more focused in their studies, aiming for better prospects of employment and/or [a] career change".

The report's author Steve Outram, a senior adviser at the HEA, said that the scheme's extra resources also meant that class sizes were smaller.

Meanwhile, Staffordshire said staff had interviewed potential fast-track students to ensure that they had the "ability to cope with the intensive pace".

"There is little room for resits on these programmes, although students who do fall behind are often able to transfer on to a three-year equivalent degree if available," it said.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com.

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