Two-year degrees will not lead to the dire scenarios that some have predicted (“Counting the hours shows fast-track flaws”, Letters, 2 March; “Fast-track degrees could create two-tier English sector”, News, 9 March). The University of Buckingham has offered two-year degrees successfully for more than 40 years.
Students do not have to “cram” or miss out on the traditional university “rite of passage” simply because the degree does not stretch over three years. Buckingham has a four-term academic year: 40 weeks of teaching, learning and assessment, and 12 weeks’ vacation. Teaching is a combination of lectures and small-group tutorials, and levels of academic (and pastoral) support are high – so is student engagement. Examinations take place twice a year, in June and December; we do not operate in a “state of permanent assessment”.
The two-year degree does not result in a “two-tier career structure”. Our academic staff teach for three terms a year and have one term free from teaching – during which they are able to conduct their research, update their courses, attend conferences and have a holiday. Staff with school-age children are likely to take the summer term off. Others take theirs outside school holidays, so there is continuity in the teaching provided by permanent staff (including deans).
Our students are happy to be at the university during the summer. They enjoy the continuity of contact with tutors and are free to fill the long summer evenings with extracurricular activities or study. They do not have to return home for several months and then search again for new accommodation for their next year of study. They get the experience promised, and their satisfaction is reflected in consistently high scores in the National Student Survey. Plus, they save on a third year’s accommodation and living expenses.
Students do not “miss out on work opportunities”, and the two-year degree is the perfect grounding for their future employability. Many gain valuable work experience through part-time, local jobs throughout the year. Graduate employability rates for Buckingham students are high.
Academic standards are high as well. Our degrees conform to national (and international) credit and levels requirements, and we are subject to the same regulatory scrutiny as other universities.
Since Bologna, the UK has successfully defended its 3+1 model. In future, it could also defend a 2+1 model. Buckingham is proof that the two-year degree works – for students, staff and employers.
Registrar, University of Buckingham