Missing from all the debates over the Higher Education and Research Bill is the issue of Two Year Degree courses. . The government is keen to encourage the development of two year degree programmes , to respond to demand and to offer more flexibility, innovation and choice to students. Always popular with mature students, there is growing evidence , not least from a recent consultation, that debt sensitive young students who want to enter the job market earlier might find it more attractive to get a bona fide degree after two years rather than three, and pay around £18,000 as opposed to £27.000.
But the government needs to incentivise both private and state funded Higher Education Institutions to do this. As things stand the institution that has done more than any other to put quality assured, two year degrees on the map is the University of Buckingham but its students can only access £6000 loans each year (£12,000 in total )although the course fees are much more than that . Now thats not fair. State funded students can access £9000 loans and obviously the institutions have their fees capped at that (going up to £9250 this year). But why would an HEI be keen to move to two year degrees if its going to lose out on one years tuition fees? (ie it will get £18,500 as opposed to £27,750 tuition fee income ) The answer is to offer parity between the private and public sectors and reform the fee structures for two year courses, so that state funded institutions can charge more for two year courses and students on private courses can access bigger loans, so that providers in both sectors are incentivised to deliver these courses. The Competition and Market Authority has recommended “that the Government should examine how degrees structured in an alternative way could be supported by introducing more flexibility into the yearly funding rules. Whilst we note that accelerated degrees would still need to operate within the aggregated funding cap, there may be scope to allow more innovation whilst still maintaining public expenditure controls. Such degrees would still need to meet the baseline level of quality.”
Pam Tatlow, the chief executive of MillionPlus, has added her voice (Times Higher 9 January 2017) saying that CMA was right to point out that there was a clear disincentive to expanding accelerated-degree provision. The Higher Education Minister Jo Johnson is also keen , but needs to put incentives in place if its to happen.