U-turn on two-year degrees predicted as fears grow over funding

The Guardian reports that the government may be forced into a humiliating U-turn on its flagship plans for fast-track university degrees that were designed to soften the blow of paying high fees, experts are warning.

Ministers proposed that universities should be able to charge the same overall for intensive two-year degrees as three-year courses, meaning annual fees could be up to £13,500 a year. The appeal of this is meant to be that students would only have two years of maintenance to fund and they would be able to enter the workforce and start earning sooner.

Jo Johnson, the higher education minister, has championed more flexible two-year degrees, despite considerable scepticism in the university sector. But going for a vote in the Commons would be political madness, say higher education experts, especially at a time when the Tories are struggling to woo the student vote, which swung so dramatically to Labour in the general election.

But last week Johnson insisted that the Department for Education would press ahead with the policy regardless of the political climate – and would be consulting on the new fee cap and other issues around implementation shortly.

Johnson told Education Guardian: “Accelerated degrees mean lower costs for students and taxpayers, increased value for money, and faster entry into the labour market for graduates. We know from our research that the demand is there. Both students and employers see the benefits.”

The private Buckingham University is one of the biggest providers of two-year degrees, and it says applications are booming. But Sir Anthony Seldon, Buckingham’s vice-chancellor, says that unless public universities are allowed to charge higher fees for two-year degrees, the new policy will be a flop.

“At the moment there is very little incentive for universities to start offering them, and lots of things to put them off,” he says. “It is a big contractual change for staff to have to teach year-round. It also means you can’t let out your accommodation in the summer. And it’s non-proven. Why would you venture into that if your student numbers were already OK?”

Read the full article U-turn on two-year degrees predicted as fears grow over funding

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