Author: Martin

Celebrating university life in all its diversity. Helping to achieve a full, entertaining, productive, and successful experience.

Questioning the Implications of Two-Year, Fast-Track Degrees

cheetahs-fast-track-degree

I’ve seen both joy and grief at news that the government are set to announce fast-track degrees that cost the same as traditional three-year courses.

I’ve also seen the many cries that this isn’t the first time two-year plans have been considered.

No matter how you feel about condensed courses, the first place to start is with questions.

Well, it’s how I like to start, anyway. So here are a few initial questions that come to the top of my mind:

Can all degrees translate into two years?

Can all degrees translate into two years? How will the quality of teaching, and the content on offer to students, be assessed? This is especially important for the first couple of student intakes.

How will the course structure work for students?

Will there be holiday time for students at all? Will there be time for extra-curricular activities? Will there be time/ability/flexibility for part-time work?

How will the course structure work for academics?

Will there be time for research? Will this situation result in two-year degrees in teaching-based universities far more than research-intensive institutions? Will this exacerbate a tiered system?

Speaking of tiered systems, could two-year degrees attract those from disadvantaged backgrounds, for the wrong reasons?

There are already signs that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to focus on the academic work, at the detriment of extracurricular activities and other pursuits.

Will emphasis on fast-tracking degree lead to even greater assumption that the degree is the main need for moving into the workplace? Will students from disadvantaged backgrounds be more likely to take on these courses, while further restricting them by focusing too much on the academic and not enough on other activities outside the degree?

What will universities do to show they are spending the same on the fast-track course?

The Guardian states:

“…universities would have to prove they were investing the same resources in the fast-track students as in those studying for a conventional degree.”

Do universities currently highlight how they invest their resources in each course? What processes (and what safeguards) will be put into place to examine university spending from a three-year offering compared to a two-year offering? And what if an institution decided to offer a course on a two-year track only? Work with historical spending data (that may not even exist)? Work on the basis that this is the first year of offering the course and exempt the institution from proving spending levels?

Will “First year doesn’t count” be replaced by an equally problematic situation?

That problem of the mistaken “First year doesn’t count” may well go, but the new problem could be that students will be expected to put in quality work from the outset. This may not be realistic, as academic methods of working require some getting used to at the start.

Will some people jump at the chance of getting the best of both worlds?

Could this flexibility of offering a fast-track degree help those people who are more inclined to jump into the world of work, yet who also want a higher level of education for the benefits it can bring ongoing?

What about universities getting the best of both worlds?

Some degrees cost more than others. By charging a similar fee level as three-year degrees, might universities see the possibility to make more money by offering fast-track on the courses that cost less anyway? More opportunity to boost incoming to support more costly degrees, research, etc. Positives and negatives to this for all and should be considered carefully before hastily implementing.

Can conversations be driven in a way that avoids hasty opinions?

Top-level statements of two-year degrees helping students, universities and the economy are not enough. The devil, as always, is in the detail. Yet these big statements aren’t meant for policy wonks and those delivering the teaching. The overall message sounds good to the public and can drive opinion. Therefore, as well as driving continued conversation and analysis in-house and with government, it’s important to find ways to bring that conversation through to the wider public so that they understand the potential impact (good and bad) of moves to fast-track degrees.

Where will applicant support come from and how will it be ensured as reasonable?

By providing this solution as well as more traditional three-year paths (and work-placement options, etc.), outreach work and applicant advice will need to be clear in explaining the pros and cons for each path. This should not be driven by marketing departments and vested interests. OFFA, et al, will need to have practical guidelines in place; preferably enforceable to some extent. I don’t know how this would look at this stage, but it would certainly need addressing.

If tuition fees remain the same, what about the psychological view of debt?

When students (and their families) weigh up whether to go to university, the issue of debt cannot be avoided. Applications to university may not have suffered a great deal, but there is greater resentment over the cost of attending.

Yes, a two-year course would remove a year of living costs. But the psychological view of debt doesn’t change. Tuition fees would stay roughly the same. If tuition debt is set to run at the same level, applicants (and, once again, their families) may continue to feel unhappy. It doesn’t matter how the payments work out in reality, the idea of debt can be enough to switch some people off from engaging beyond that.

These are just a few quick questions that need to be examined more closely when considering how fast-track degrees may work.

What questions would you add to the list?

How Your Current Tasks and End Goals Help To Support Each Other – TUB-Thump 032

tub-thump-logo-small

Why are you going to that lecture? Why are you taking those notes? Why have you got things on your mind?

Everything you’re doing right now has some sort of end goal attached to it. Do you know what your end goals are?

Episode 032 of TUB-Thump takes a look at the importance of combining future context with the present moment. Focus on the end goals in order to achieve your best in your current tasks.


Here are the show notes for the 4-min episode:

  • 00:40 – Keep the end goal in mind to better understand the best way to tackle your current task.
  • 01:00 – This works with everything you do. Find the future context in the present moment.
  • 02:00 – What do you need in order to excel and reach the end goal?
  • 03:30 – Things get easier with an end goal in mind.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

Embarrassment May Come Before Impressive. That’s Great! – TUB-Thump 031

tub-thump-logo-small

 

I had stuff going on in the house. I was looking after the baby. I wanted a cup of tea.

“The kitchen has a lot of echo,” I thought. “What a perfect time to record an episode of TUB-Thump.”

The idea was to hit record on the device in my pocket and start talking about how easily we can do whatever we want.

It doesn’t always feel easy.

Sending a photo or video to a mate on Snapchat seems easier than publishing a video to the whole world. Having a conversation about your interests is okay in private, but it’s another thing to broadcast it globally.

Or is it?

Episode 31 of TUB-Thump is simply a nudge in the right direction for you to start your quest for awesomeness today.

Don’t let a lack of professional resources and equipment stop you.

Reid Hoffman, who founded LinkedIn, said:

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Let the embarrassment in, otherwise you may not let anything out.

And the world needs you. We need you, darn it! Even if you’re busy being responsible for a little human being and you’re standing in a kitchen with an echo.


Here are the show notes for the 4-min episode:

  • 00:50 – Reaching out, publishing content, creating a portfolio…It’s all possible today. The entry requirements are very little.
  • 01:30 – If I can record in a kitchen with an echo, on a phone or entertainment device, when holding a baby, what production value issues are stopping you?
  • 02:00 – Production values don’t matter at first. The better they are, that’s great. But the bigger deal is creating value and being present.
  • 02:30 – What can you do today? Perhaps you’ve been putting it off or you think you need a better setup before you start. Bottom line…You can probably do it now.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

Fight Your Feedback! TUB-Thump 030

tub-thump-logo-small

 

Are you ready to fight with feedback?

Do you shudder at the thought of reading what your tutor has said about your essay? Or do you read the advice and think, “Challenge accepted”?

Episode 030 of TUB-Thump urges you to choose the latter. Get back in the ring and defeat the beast of feedback.

Using Colin Neville’s book, How To Improve Your Assignment Results, I take at look at what it means when you act (or not) in Flight, Fright and Fight modes.

The upshot is not to put your head in the sand. You may shrug off a bad result and hope to do better next time. But your grades will thank you if you take a stand and tackle the beast.

Ding ding! The next round starts now.


Here are the show notes for the 8-min episode:

  • 00:30 – What’s your first reaction when you get a piece of coursework back? Do you engage with the feedback, or do you want to get away from it?
  • 01:20 – How to improve your assignment results (Open Up Study Skills) – Colin Neville
  • 01:35 – Flight, Fright, or Fight?
  • 02:20 – The main options are Fright or Fight. Fright is doing nothing. Fight is taking action.
  • 03:10 – Not tackling the issues = Less chance of the grade you deserve in the next piece of work. And the next. And so on.
  • 04:00 – Working with the feedback could allow you to work a bit easier in your subsequent assignments. A bit of attention now may go a long way.
  • 04:15 – “A poor coursework result is not a damning verdict on you as a human being. It’s a transient comment on your past work.”
  • 05:10 – A finished essay isn’t entirely finished with. Use it to improve in your next piece of work.
  • 06:35 – Do this even when you get a great result. Emulate the effective methods and examples too.

Also, here’s a PDF guide by Colin Neville with more information: Your Assignment Results and How To Improve Them


Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!