Thoughts on Two Year Degrees

You may have seen that the government is interested in starting two-year degrees. Their basic argument is that this will increase choice and access to the sector.

I think this is a universally Bad idea for a number of reasons. Let me tell you what they might be.


Part of the government’s argument is that 2 year degrees will increase choice. This may be the case but choice is not always good. You have to remember that this is a government idea and not something pushed by HE. Choice and variety ignores that we might have actually learnt something their the history and experience and what we have learnt might be that degrees blwork best in a three year format.

Value for money

The government is acting like they have created a way to solve problems for people who can’t afford HE. Firstly this is a weird argument considering that fees is a problem created by the Conservative government. Better solutions might be increase public funding or having a graduate tax which would allow fees to be abolished. Secondly we have to ask is this more about a ideology that wants to create variety on an ideological basis (because that would be more marketised) or a solution for actual problems in HE. Conservative policy for a while has wanted to create a system where HE is more varied and was frustrated, on issues like fees, when the sector stayed the same.


There is also a belief that quicker equals better. To be more effecient with our time is seen as a positive. The problem with this is that quicker is not always better. Speed can increase pressure and stress and reduce time for reflection. Education that is too quick can be bad for students and staff (and so doubly bad for students).

Two-Tier System

Finally I fear that different demographics may be drawn into the two types of degree on offer which will inevitably lead to a two-tier system where students from non-traditional backgrounds being more likely to take up a two year degree. As this can become a class marker it opens up the possibility for discrimination in the same way that private vs. state school and academic vs. vocational education.

There are probably other reasons why this is a bad idea but O thought I would start here.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Two Year Degrees

  1. Hi Tom,
    I agree with you: they are a bad idea. In New Zealand we have a two year diploma and a three year degree. There is a marked difference in mindset between the diploma students and the degree students.

    This proposal may white ant the value of a degree, or to start more questioning of what degree people did and how long the programme was. Perhaps they suggesting that students would complete the same credits but just whack it out in two years (I can’t really tell from the article)?

    That would worry me as there is something that changes between a two year programme of study and a three year programme. I find that diploma students are much less aware of their own shortcomings and far more certain of their own judgement. They are taken much less seriously, and are far less employable.

    Completing a three year programme changes us in ways we need to be cautious about monkeying with. Read and and a thought-piece inspired by you at

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