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Public Policy|Southampton

Consultation response | Accelerated courses and switching degrees

Higher Education Bill

BIS consultation accelerated courses and switching degrees

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Submission by the University of Southampton | June 2016

Read the call for evidenceDownload the response


Q1: How many students changed degree course within your higher education institution over the last three academic years? I.e. students who changed course but continued to study at your higher education institution.

 

2012/13: 288

2013/14: 369

2014/15: 350

 

Note – these figures are for undergraduate courses only and are an overestimate as they include some minor and technical changes which would not really be considered a change in course.

 

Q2: How many students have transferred into your higher education institution over the last three academic years?

 

2012/13: 39

2013/14: 53

2014/15: 28

Note – these are for undergraduate courses only.

 

 

Q3: Are there any common patterns as to why they have transferred into your higher education institution?

 

We do not collect this data. Anecdotal evidence suggests a mixture of “trade up” and personal reasons.

 

 

Q4: How many students have transferred out of your higher education institution over the last three academic years?

 

 

 

2012/13: 38

2013/14: 33

2014/15: 31

 

 

Q5: Are there any common patterns as to why they have transferred out of your higher education institution?

 

We do not collect this data.


Q6: Have you got a credit transfer process in place?

Yes - as with many UK HEIs, we employ the RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) process.

 

Q7: If no, why not?

N/A

 

Q8: If yes, how are students made aware of your credit transfer process?

The system is available on the University Calendar and can be located by those searching for it. It is not actively advertised but those responsible for providing advice to students are aware of it and can provide that advice as appropriate.

 

 

 

 

Q9: What would the impact of a credit transfer system be on the higher education sector? If you reference other sources in your answer please state the name of the source.

 

It is worth separating out the existence of a credit transfer system with the impact that would arise from widespread use of such a system. The system (RPL) already exists and is used by many institutions, but the level of usage is very small compared with the number of students. So one answer to this question is that the impact of a credit transfer system would be minimal, in that there already is one and the impact has indeed been minimal.

The impact would however be very great if a significant number of students were to use the system to move institution. Implications could include:

 

 

Q10: What would the impact of a credit transfer system be on your institution? If you reference other sources in your answer please state the name of the source.

 

As noted in the answer to Q9, there already is a credit transfer system and for the University of Southampton, as for the sector as a whole, the implications are small because the take-up is small.  If this became much more widespread, it would have a significant impact on course design. The University of Southampton would have to try and reduce where possible the amount of knowledge and skills needed from one module  to be used in another (which will be easier in some subjects than others). We will also have to introduce catch-up teaching for knowledge gaps, perhaps as summer schools before transferring students start, although how this would be funded is unclear. Similarly, we may have to have some students studying  an extra semester or year after their colleagues have completed, particularly if their course leads to a qualification accredited by an external body.

 To make this work, we would probably need to reduce choice of module options, to ensure that all students had the core essentials. We would also need to invest more in student and academic support, although this will be difficult from current funding levels.


 

Q11: By what mechanisms could a system of credit transfer be more effectively embedded across the sector? If you reference other sources in your answer please state the name of the source.

There is an existing credit transfer system, and it does work. The question is - why it is not used very much? It is clearly not in the culture of either students or HEI providers, and the UK HEI system is not currently designed with this as a regular pathway. As things currently stand, we do not see a significant demand for switching institutions, at least amongst full time young undergraduates. For this group, their time at University is a whole experience not just focussed on learning, and it is not clear that many would wish to give up friendship groups and a place they have become familiar with to move elsewhere.

That said, it is likely that more could be done within universities to make students aware that the possibility exists, as a small number do indeed wish to move, and we believe that there should be a credit transfer process in place for them to do. Any information should also provide an honest appraisal of potential difficulties of switching institution.

The system exists, and the market for it works as it is, but only because that market is small.


 

Q12: What do you see as the main barriers to a more extensive credit transfersystem? If you reference other sources in your answer please state the name of the source.

The main barriers that we see are:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q13: Are there any lessons we can learn from international credit transfer models,e.g. from the US? If you reference other sources in your answer please state the name of the source.

The system and culture for higher education in the United States has evolved in a very different way to the UK. This means that although both countries have a credit transfer system, there is relatively little which can be easily transferred from the US system to a UK context.

 

 

 

Q14: Does your institution offer accelerated degrees?

No. The University of Southampton has no plans to offer accelerated degrees.

 

Q15: If yes, what are the advantages to the students and your institution of offering degree programmes designed in this way?

N/A


 

Q16: If no, what are the institutional barriers that would need to be overcome to offermore accelerated degrees?

1. Difficulty in covering costs

Note that it is not clear if there is an expectation that an accelerated degree course would cost a student less money in tuition fees – which are currently charged by the year, not by the module. The cost of tuition for a regular 3 year programme is the same whether spread over 3 years or compressed into 2. If the full tuition fees for the course were paid then there would be less difficulty in covering the cost, but if there was an expectation that accelerated degrees were cheaper, then there would certainly be difficulty in covering the cost.

 

2. Concern about adequately covering the course requirements in a shorter time period

 

This is much more of an issue for some subjects than others, but particular issues are those courses which require student research/design projects (which students complete over a period of time), placements and Professional Body requirements (e.g. in medicine, nursing, midwifery, allied health professions), and field trips.

 

3. Difficulty in getting staff available to work outside term time

 

Staff already work outside term time. The vast majority of teaching staff are also involved in research and/or enterprise, and they focus non-teaching time on their other objectives. Some teaching could be achieved out of term by reorganising things but certain types of researchrequire long periods away (e.g. research vessels, field work in remote locations).

4. Availability of facilities

 

Outside of term time, we use our teaching facilities for outreach work (especially with schools), pre-sessional courses (especially pre-sessional English for overseas students) and for conferences, which contribute key income to the university’s budget. Time is also needed for repairs and maintenance.

 

5. Have not seen any demand from students or employers

 

In fact, the majority of our students carry out some form of paid work in parallel with their studies, both to supplement their income and to build up work experience. This would be much more difficult on an accelerated course with additional study requirements.

 

6. It would be unsuitable for most of the subjects we offer?

N/A

7. Other? Please include any other relevant information:

 

In thinking about accelerated courses, we would also urge the Government to consider the option of encouraging decelerated courses, and the ability for tuition fees to be charged not by the year (for full time students) or as a percentage of full time (by part time students) but by module. This would allow students to study flexibly over several years, enabling students to speed up or slow down their study depending on their individual circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 


 

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