Students enrolling on fast track degrees are performing better than students on equivalent three year degrees, a new study reveals.
This is evidenced by the fact that fast-track degree students outperformed students on three-year degrees by an average of two-thirds of a degree classification.
The evaluation into two year degrees, funded by HEFCE, has been led by Professor Peter Davies at Staffordshire University and draws largely on its own experience.
Staffordshire University is one of seven Universities selected by government to pioneer fast-track degrees as part of the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) Flexible Learning Pathfinder programme.
The evaluation also estimates that students on fast-track degrees are £20,000 better off than three year undergraduates. The cost benefit is arrived at by adding the standard annual tuition fee savings to the average new graduate salary.
And it determines that fast-track students are no more likely than those on the three year degree to adopt a ‘surface’ or memorizing approach to their studies.
The report also points to the fact that fast-track offers students increased flexibility by allowing them to switch between two and three year programmes to suit their pace of learning.
Although for fast trackers, the commitment to a third semester of study restricts the opportunities for temporary work in the summer, the evaluation shows that students on fast-track degrees report the same level of part-time work as students on three-year degree programmes during main teaching semesters.
However interviews conducted with staff from three universities reveal that they remain anxious about the perceived market value of fast-track degrees.
The full evaluation findings are due to be presented at The Flexible Learning Pathfinders meeting which was set up to consider two year degrees and other forms of flexible delivery, and which takes place at the University of Gloucestershire today (January 13).
Dr Steve Wyn-Williams, Director for Academic Development at Staffordshire University said: “There are a lot of myths which exist around two year degrees and as a University which prides itself on successfully delivering and growing our fast-track provision, we are delighted to be able to set the record straight.
“That said, under the current system of funding and caps on recruitment, universities struggle to make the offering of two year degrees financially viable and this has to be weighed up against the cost benefits to the student.
“If universities were allowed to charge a higher annual tuition fee for a fast-track degree the financial viability of these degrees would be substantially enhanced and fast-track degrees could be marketed as a ‘premier route’ which would allow students to differentiate themselves by their aptitude and commitment to learning as well as saving on their costs.”
Notes to editors:
The Flexible Learning Pathfinders meeting is chaired by the Higher Education Academy(HEA) and attended by Universities offering two year degrees as well as representatives from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
An Evaluation of the Introduction of Fast-Track (2 Year) degree Programmes was carried out by Peter Davies, Chris Howard and Kim Slack from the Institute for Education Policy Research at Staffordshire University. Professor Peter Davies can be contacted on 01782 294273 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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