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.




Reforms will seek better access and allow institutions to respond better to demand, with more accountability


The opposition has objected to decisions made on raising  tuition fees without   any  preceding   White Paper on HE. An HE White Paper  is due early next year. In the  forthcoming  WP   the Government intends to  discuss proposals to enable  universities to respond flexibly to demand. Two year degrees,  for example and other intensive forms of degree, offer  an attractive option for many students, as does flexibly delivered provision  that allows students to achieve Higher Education qualifications in the  workplace.  Universities will also want says the Government  to reflect on  the importance of  enhancing progression opportunities for learners within the FE sector, or in  employment as Apprentices or otherwise. New guidance  will also  be issued to the Director of Fair Access, setting out tough conditions for  institutions wishing to set graduate contribution charges above £6,000 from autumn 2012, including an agreed programme of progress each year  against a university’s access measures and benchmarks.  Most of the top universities will seek to raise their fees above the £6,000  marker.