Sir Anthony Seldon: 'Two-year degrees are not for those who want to have a doss year'

Sir Anthony Seldon has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham since 2015
Sir Anthony Seldon has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham since 2015

The vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, Sir Anthony Seldon, has backed government plans to offer shorter degrees to students.

Universities minister, Jo Johnson, claims undergraduate degrees would cost £5500 less if changes were made, and that the new offering would "break the mould”.

Jo Johnson MP has come out in support of shorter degrees

Jo Johnson MP has come out in support of shorter degrees

The University of Buckingham, a private university, is one of the largest providers of two year degrees, and vice-chancellor Sir Seldon believes they offer better value.

He said: “Many people would be shocked if they realised that approximately a year and a half of that three-year degree is spent away from the university, on holidays. To achieve an undergraduate degree requires some 78 weeks of study.

“The three-year model just means that students spend a year and a half on holidays. Some students feel that the holidays are too long, they cannot find satisfying holiday work. They find it unsettling to have to move back home and they miss their university friends.

“In a two-year, accelerated degree programme, students spend the same 78 weeks studying, but have just 26 weeks of holiday, which equates to 13 weeks a year. This might not sound long to some, but it is very similar to what students have been used to at school, and we have to remind them that it is far longer than the holiday time which they will enjoy once they start work.”

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner MP has said that there is no evidence that offering two-year degrees will lead to “better outcomes.”

The Russell Group, representing 24 leading universities in the UK, said they wouldn’t rule out two year degrees but “there are practical reasons why three-year programmes have generally been considered the most appropriate way to deliver courses at research-intensive institutions.”

“The traditional universities inevitably have been no friends to two-year degrees. Offering such programmes will involve major contractual changes to staff and use of university facilities. Their principle objections to the degrees is without substance: that they will result in diminution of the quality of learning and student experience.

“Doing a two-year degree does not take up as much time so making it easier to do further studies or get into their first career as, with our fast-changing work environment, there’s every chance they will have a second later on.

“It is perfectly possible for academic staff to undertake research just as they do at other universities. At Buckingham a system is in place enabling academic staff to have a sabbatical term in order to pursue their studies.

“Two-year degrees are not for those who want to have a “doss year” during their first year. But it isn’t a qualification to race through – there is ample time for reflection and there is sufficient study time. The course will not suit those who want to spend three months travelling during the summer.

“But many undergraduates on two-year programmes do find the time to travel extensively and do plenty of voluntary work and work placements during their course.”

Do you see value in promoting shorter undergraduate degrees? Email us, at editorial@buckinghamtoday.co.uk