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UK: Two-year degrees “won’t represent value” to int’l students

The UK Government plans to introduce £11,100-a-year tuition fees for two-year degrees in a move it insists will save students around 20% overall. However, a recent survey revealed a low recognition of the value of accelerated degrees among international students, despite the fact that they would likely experience a reduced cost of living from fewer years studying.

Currently, the maximum per-year fee for a typical three-year course in the UK is approximately £9,250 for UK/EU students, with international students paying considerably more depending on their choice of course and institution.

Under the new proposal, universities will be allowed to charge students almost £2,000 a year more in fees in return for allowing them to complete a degree over two years instead of three.

Students eligible for ‘home fee status’ on a fast-track course would pay £22,200 in tuition fees, compared with £27,750 for a standard three-year degree.

UK Universities minister Jo Johnson said it amounts to a saving of £5,500 and the move could force universities to offer intense, fast-track courses that suit older students.

“Many [students] will want to stick with the classic three-year university experience, but for highly motivated students hungry for a faster pace of learning and a quicker route into or back into work, at lower overall cost, two-year degrees will be well worth considering,” Johnson said.

Providers offering accelerated degrees will need to meet exactly the same quality assurance measures as for the standard three-year equivalent degrees.

The Department for Education claims that as well as reduced tuition fees, students will save on a year’s living costs and will be able to start working a year earlier, which according to the DfE could leave students over £25,000 better off.

The PIE News understands that accelerated degrees will be available for international students on the same basis as three-year degrees, and international students will need to apply for a student visa for the length of their degree. 

A consultation document that will provide further details on this is to be published shortly.

However a recent survey from QS Enrolment Solutions has revealed that international students don’t see value in two-year degrees, with 52% saying they would expect annual tuition fees for a two-year program to be lower than for an equivalent three-year degree.

The survey found European students were the least likely to recognise the value, with 61% of respondents saying that two-year degrees should cost less each year in tuition fees.

EdBridge UK CEO and founder Xiaofan Li, told The PIE News that he didn’t believe the option of a two-year degree would attract Chinese students, but not due to financial worries.

Li said the fees for international students have long exceeded both the £11,000 and £9,250, marks and “it has never been a problem”.

He said at many London universities overseas students already pay £16-25,000 a year for tuition fees, “let alone accommodation and living costs”.

“I don’t think these will look attractive to Chinese students.

“The reason is that the parents would not think this would provide enough value for money, and the two-year degree may not be able to get recognised by the Chinese Ministry of Education as certified degree courses,” he said.

“In China, all standard BA/BSc degrees take 4 years, while a college diploma (no degree but with certificates) takes three years.

“Mapping onto the British system the two-year degree would be comparable to the three-year Chinese equivalent, of which the value is often put into question within China itself.”

There are several UK universities already offering two-year fast-track degrees which provide the same level of academic content as traditional three-year degree programs.

These include Anglia Ruskin University, which has been named one of the top 40 institutions in the UK.

There have been previous attempts to promote two-year degrees, but Johnson said only 0.2% of students are on such accelerated courses.

However, not all universities agree that fast-track degrees will improve the overall student experience.

A University of Manchester spokesman told The PIE News that the university does not currently offer the two-year intensive undergraduate programs, though they will “keep this under review”.

“Our current thinking is that there would be considerable challenges for a research-intensive university to run two-year undergraduate programs alongside three-year programs.

“We also think that the benefits of improving the student experience and attracting disadvantaged students are uncertain,” they said.

Angela Rayner MP, shadow secretary of State for Education added there was no evidence that “squeezing three years of learning into two will stop the huge drop in part-time students or lead to better outcomes”.

“With universities facing uncertainty over Brexit, ministers must address concerns like the impact on staff workload before imposing more major changes,” she said.