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Student debt is aways a hot topic!
Tuition fees can now rise with inflation. Let's look at Six possible ways a student studying in England can achieve a full Hons degree for less than is the norm......
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Below are six ways a student can secure a degree cheaper than the usual 3 year £ 9000 offering - at least in England.......

1. Part time degree courses

Most institutions offer part-time degrees alongside their conventional three year versions. These can last anything from four to six years. Attendance at university is usually still required - the amount of time varying from one day a week to a couple of evenings and anything in-between.

What's good

The cost of tuition fees can be much cheaper and easier to spread across a longer period of time. For example The University of Wolverhampton is charging tuition fees of £2725 for the academic year 2015/16. This equates to £16350 in total, much less than the £27000 they charge for a three year full time degree. Student loans are also available.

Also most students studying on a part time basis tend to study while at home. This saves further accommodation costs and of course allows the student to earn while they learn and continue to work around their study commitments. But another benefit is the that part time students can enjoy the experience of university life including all the facilities uni can provide, bonding with fellow students and having access to face to face contact with lecturers.

And what's not

Not all degrees offered by a university are offered on a part time basis. This may mean the subject you wish to study simply isn't available other than over three years. Secondly the way some part time degrees are put together isn't always as effective as it could be i.e. they are just expanded versions of their full time counterparts. This doesn't always translate into a great study experience.

Verdict

Definitely worth a look if for the potential savings if nothing else.

2. The Apprenticeship Degree

These are a relatively new addition to the educational scene but could become a big player in the years to come. Mainly aimed at the technology sector, Apprenticeship Degree do exactly what they say on the tin - they are a combination of higher education and vocational training.

The government have pledged to pay two thirds of the cost (at least to start) and are initially in areas such IT, Manufacturing, PR and Chartered Surveying amongst others. Companies such as Accenture, BT, Fords. Lloyds Banking Group and HR Revenue & Customs are some of the major employers taking part, while Loughborough, Manchester Met, Exeter and the University College London are some of the institutions that have signed up to this initiative.

What's good

Although Higher Apprenticeships allow a student to study to degree level, Apprenticeship Degrees actually allow the student to be awarded a full honours qualification - and at practically no cost as the employer and the government pick up the tab.

And what's not

Hard to say as they are so new. But at the present time numbers of courses are limited. It's impossible say how this brand new qualification will catch on and how many places will eventually become available. Also there is nothing to say how portable apprenticeship degrees will be between employers. As there is a large element of training involved in the construction of these new awards, how one company does things may not suite the practices of another.

Verdict

A good idea, but it remains to be seen how effective and widespread they become in the future.

3. Two Year Degree Courses

Two year degrees courses have been around for some time. However the number of institutions offering them still seems to be limited. However this is something that may change as the costs of tuition fees and loans for accommodation costs become too much for some. This is because the idea of only having to find funding for two years rather than three is enticing to many. Because of this some pundits feel that this could be the time when the two year degree finally takes off.

The main difference is in the way these courses are organised. Instead of having three terms, there are just two (semesters) with relatively short breaks in between and throughout the year. This way they cover exactly the same amount of curriculum material but in a shorter period of time. - hence the two year degree.

What's good

One advantage is that a student saves a year of tuition fees and living costs etc, potentially a significant saving. But another excellent benefit is that you will be able to get into work a year before your friends!

And What's not

However one problem with two year degrees is that some can be quite expensive relative to their three year counterpart. Also their intensive nature is not for everyone. There's little time to replenish your batteries as the breaks are quite short and there is no long summer holiday to go travelling or to work. Lastly they are not common everywhere. You might struggle to find one that suites your academic objectives.

Verdict

A possibility for some, but you'll need to check costs to make sure it works for you.

4. Distance Learning

As the name suggests distance learning is study at a distance. The organisation sends the study materials through the post or provides access to materials on line, which can then usually be studied at a time that suites e.g. at home, at work or on the move. Resources utilised include DVDs, pod casts, 'Skype' type software, as well as online content and good old fashion books. In some cases face to face tutorials and study days are offered. The granddaddy of them all is of course the Open University (OU) which scores highly on student satisfaction league tables and also has an excellent reputation for teaching and research.

What's good

The benefits of distance learning are obvious and compelling. The term 'earn while you learn' is one often used by distance learning providers. This is because the student can continue to study towards their career goal in the evenings and at weekends, but still earn a living in order to pay the bills. Plus it's now possible to take advantage of student loans.

Such providers offer the same degrees as conventional institutions e.g. Psychology distance learning courses and many other subjects, but can be significantly cheaper than full time providers (£5400 full time equivalent at the OU), so it's easy to see why more and more students (especially 18 to 25 year olds) are choosing part-time distance learning study as a viable option.

What's not

Distance learning is not an easy option. It can take up to six years or more to complete, but this will depend on the study intensity of the individual student. Secondly isolation can be an issue for some. A lot of self motivation is required to study alone although forums and study groups can help. Lastly recognition can also be a problem for but for lesser known distance learning brands - getting a job or going onto postgraduate study could be an issue for some.

Verdict

Need lots of self motivation and a sound rationale for needing/wanting to study in this way.

5. Studying Abroad

Students have always gone abroad to study, perhaps even more so now because of high tuition fees in England. But that is not the only reason (see our full article on studying abroad to get more details). The traditional places such as the US are still firm favourites. But now universities in Europe are beginning to get in on the act by offering courses in English e.g. Holland and Germany to name two. Their reasoning is simple - to broaden the reach of their institutions and enhance their reputation at the same time.

What's good

One benefit is that many of these European universities do not charge tuition fees. That's right - none at all. Something not to be sniffed at! Also a student studying abroad has excellent opportunities to develop their language skills, have the opportunity to travel and explore a brand new country. Also making new contacts from across the continent may serve you well for a career later (working for the European Commission anyone?).

What's not

Unfortunately there are some disadvantages. For one thing, although fees may be cheaper or non existent in some places (but not in the US where despite scholarships etc tuition fees may still be extremely high), there will still be accommodation costs, food bills and money to pay for regular travel home. And of course there are no loans to help you defer these costs - this will all have to be found up front. Lastly, studying somewhere where you may struggle with the language and culture is not for everyone.

Verdict

Studying abroad is a potential option for some. And as you can see you could save money - but you'll need to do your homework first!

6. Private Universities

There are only a handful of private universities in the UK the University of Buckingham perhaps being the best known as it was first. But other examples are the University of Law, Regents College, BPP and the IFS School of Finance. A couple of newer private universities are the New College of the Humanities and Benedictus, a new Catholic University. Both are in London. These institutions are private in the sense that they are allowed to confer degrees in their own right, but are not part of the University & College Application Service (UCAS) application process.

What's good

Many of these institutions have quite generous entry requirements compared to their UCAS counterparts. But the main advantage is that some of them offer full honours degrees at a lower rate than the usual £9000 per year. For example the University of Law offer a Law degree at only £6000 per year. Also student loans can be available up to a maximum of £6000 per year.

What's not

First of all not all private institutions are cheaper. For example the New College of the Humanities charges up to £15000 per year for a typical degree. Also there could be an issue about recognition depending on your career objectives. Employers may be nervous of an institution they've never heard of. Lastly if you have a career in mind, you'll need to check with the relevant professional organisation that a qualification from one of these institutions is going to be acceptable.

Verdict

Could be an option for some depending on career objectives. But you may find that they're not particular cheap. You'll need to check carefully.

Conclusion

So there you go - six alternatives to the conventional three year degree course. You'll need to check to make sure that any of these choices are for you - for example study abroad may not be feasible for a variety of reasons. But you may find one that can help reduce costs and debt in the long term.

Six ways to a cheaper degree