Two-year degrees: Will they catch on?

A degree doesn’t have to be a strict three-year affair.  There are  part-time courses, distance learning possibilities,  work-placement years, and all manner of choices to get you  working in a way that fits your lifestyle.

Photo by badboy69

Photo by badboy69

The latest trend is with two-year degrees.  Why spend three  years doing what you can complete in two?  It’s the same  amount of work, but in a shorter space of time.  You therefore  need to be determined, enthusiastic, ambitious, and happy to  ignore certain aspects of the social side attributed to  university.

That’s not to say you’d be working 24/7, but the focus is  automatically greater than the three year equivalent.

So what are the pros and cons?  If you’re not already at uni,  are you thinking that a two year course will suit you much  better?  Here are some of the things to think about:


  1. Potential to cost less – While it may not automatically  work this way (i.e. check with the institution!), you may only  need to pay about two-thirds of the price a standard 3-year  degree would cost.
  2. You finish more quickly – experience university AND get to  work soon?  Best of both worlds.
  3. Less wasted time – The focus on blasting through the work  in a third less time means that you won’t find huge chunks of  time where you’re at a loose end.  It’s nice to have free  time, but it can work to our detriment if we have too much.   You may find yourself taking longer than needed on tasks  simply in order to fit the timescale.
  4. Shows enthusiasm – Unless 2 year degree courses become a  more popular norm, any employer should be impressed that you  completed your study a year less than most people do.  And if  you incorporate your positive reasons behind wanting to  complete in 2 years, it should look even more promising to  prospective employers.


  1. Less social time – Maybe you don’t find loose ends.   Perhaps you thrive on the social life instead.  With a 2 year degree, your timetable won’t have as much free time as those  of other students on the standard 3 year fare.
  2. You finish more quickly – Just as negative as it is  positive.  What if you love the university experience?  Will  you start questioning whether you really did want to fast track your way into the big bad world?
  3. Less flexibility for part-time employment – Uni may be  costing less over the whole time, but if you need to hold a  job down to stay in education, a 2 year course may not work  out.  Working greater hours on your study gives you less time  to do anything else.
  4. At odds with the majority of students (for now, that is) –  If you’re looking for the standard ‘student experience’,  you’re best off taking a course that follows the usual path of  3 years (or sometimes 4 years).  But with so many 18 year olds  entering HE (and potentially more if the school leaving age goes up to 18), a ‘standard’ path won’t work for everyone.  So  while this point isn’t all negative, it is something you need  to consider carefully when summing up the reasons WHY you want  to go to university.
  5. More difficulty getting tutor contact – Some tutors are  hard to get hold of throughout a traditional three year  course.  With less time to waste, the issue of contact is even  more important, so certain tutors may cause you to pull your  hair out.  Check my 6-point checklist for better feedback if  you don’t get the communication you’re looking for.

The Independent has a piece on two-year degrees, including the  differing opinions out there.  A good read if you’re  considering the option.

Can you think of any other reasons why two-year degrees may or may not be a good thing?  Let me know in the comments!

Your Degree: Now more than just a grade

Are you working toward a degree in English, Biology, Accounting or Creative Arts?  If so, you may be in store for more than a traditional final grade at the end of your course.

Eighteen universities are trialling a new system of grading, called the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR).  In it, you will find a detailed breakdown of your performance from all your modules and coursework.

You’ll still get the traditional First, 2:1, 2:2 or Third classification, but the report will more clearly highlight your strengths and weaknesses throughout.  When you shine on a particular module, the new system will show that.  On the flipside, any glaring weaknesses can also become apparent.  For instance, if I had received the report for my degree, you’d notice that I took one module that only scraped a Third.  I didn’t enjoy the module and didn’t put enough effort in the work…with the new reporting system, that would stick out like a sore thumb.  But it would also point out my ‘big mark’ Firsts.  You win some, you lose some…

If the HEAR trial is a success, it will probably become standard everywhere from 2010-2011.

The universities taking part in the trial are:

University of Leicester; Goldsmiths; University of St Andrews; University of Manchester; Newcastle University; UCL; University of Aberystwyth; University of Northumbria; University of Wales Institute, Cardiff; University of Derby; University of Northampton; University of Gloucestershire; University of Greenwich; Keele University; University of Ulster; University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury; York St John University; Newman University College

Below are links to coverage of what’s being said in today’s papers, as well as the original report suggesting the new system, plus the National Union of Students (NUS) take on the matter.