Accelerated Degrees – Student Success Stories
Kezia (20), Matilda (21) and Caitlyn (23) are all studying two-year degrees at the University of Buckingham. We sat down with them to find out what it's like to study an accelerated degree, and why they think they are a fantastic alternative to traditional structures.
Journalism and French
International and Commercial Law
What brought you to where you are today?
K: I’ve always loved animals and wildlife, so at AS Level I started to pursue Veterinary Medicine. It didn’t work out, so I transferred to sixth form college and retook the year, which meant changing my goal to working ‘for’ animals rather than working ‘on’ them.
For university I began at a Russell Group institution on a three-year course. I stayed for three months but quickly realised it wasn’t for me. I didn’t enjoy getting lost among the 40,000 other students there, so I transferred to a smaller university in January last year to do a two-year course.
M: I ended up at Buckingham as I wanted to move out of London, and the idea of an accelerated degree appealed to me as I was unwell when I was younger, so a year behind in my studies.
C: I’m from New York, so an international student here in the UK. I have always wanted to study Law, and after completing my first degree in Political Science, I figured I should just go for it after moving to England. Doing it accelerated was an added benefit since I will get both my LL.B and LL.M in the same time it could take to get just one degree.
Why did you choose to study an accelerated degree?
K: For me, a two-year degree was about preparing myself for the future and not wasting time. I had already retaken a year at school, and made the incorrect university choice the first time, so I just wanted to crack on with it. I found the idea of getting into the real world a year early much more exciting than spending three years at a university I wasn’t enjoying. I knew that even if I didn’t enjoy Buckingham (which I do), the end point would be a year closer and I’d be more likely to stick at it!
M: I didn’t necessarily go out looking for an accelerated degree, but it was an advantage because I was starting university at 19. It appealed to me because I like to keep busy, and I’m not a fan of long summer breaks. Also, if I study a master’s, I could complete that as well in the time it normally takes to do just an undergraduate degree.
C: I have always enjoyed a challenge and not going down the ‘typical’ path – at high school I took university level classes. I was able to transfer those to my degree which equated to being half a year of work. From my first degree, I graduated a year early. I took classes in both the summer and winter as well as an extra class in both semesters of my final year. I have always enjoyed keeping busy, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I am the most studious person! I enjoy going out and my down time just as much; I just like the flexibility of accelerated degrees.
How did you research accelerated degrees? Was it easy to find the information you required?
K: I was already aware of Buckingham. I wanted smaller class sizes, a January starting point and a two-year course, so it ticked all the boxes and appeared in my research every time.
M: When initially applying to university I only applied for one accelerated degree out of my five UCAS choices. Most of my research was into Buckingham and the way that the course is structured here, so my decision wasn’t so much accelerated degree based but university based.
C: I ended up being lucky and knowing someone who was planning on attending the University of Buckingham. I wasn’t aware that accelerated degrees are still quite rare in the UK, but it was very easy. The information is out there.
How did you find the application process?
K: I applied directly to Buckingham but you can apply through UCAS. It was an extremely easy application made up of a personal interview, forms and lots of friendly emails.
C: The application process was not any different for me, being an international student. Since Buckingham is so small they were able to get back to me very quickly.
How are you finding the experience of studying an accelerated degree?
K: I’m really enjoying the intensity. The end point being a year closer keeps me motivated. I feel like I’m getting a lot out of my degree and not just from the lectures.
M: I love studying an accelerated degree. I didn’t enjoy the overly long holidays at school, so doing a two-year degree worked perfectly for me.
C: I have loved it. Our terms, timetables, exams, and holidays work so seamlessly with one another. We get to have exams before our holidays, so we then get that time to ourselves and don’t have to worry about revising. With a September and January intake, the structure can really cater to many different types of students including school leavers, those wishing to take half a gap year, and mature students.
What do you think are the main benefits of studying an accelerated degree compared to a traditional one?
K: I think students who study accelerated degrees become equipped with the skills required for the pace and competitiveness of the working world. I have had just as much, if not more, intellectual stimulation as I would on a traditional length degree.
I’m more proactive and my time-management has improved massively. No three-month summer holidays mean I don’t return to university demotivated after such a long period of free time, and with less time off, I’m way more likely to make good use of it.
I also liked that many international students studied accelerated degrees. My friendship group was made up of people from all over the world which definitely enriched my student experience and made me more open and aware.
M: Financially it is better as you save a year of living costs. I also saved money on tuition. The term structure is a better reflection of the working world, as holidays are shorter than a traditional degree.
C: School leavers enter the work force a year earlier than their peers. This works for me as it would normally would take seven years to practise law in New York – but I will have completed two degrees plus a master’s in just six years.
Is there anything about being an accelerated degree student you find difficult?
K: Many people believe that accelerated degrees are only for motivated people. This isn’t the case – I have my fair share of demotivation, and because of the holidays we’re used to at school, it can be difficult to maintain the same level of motivation across the whole year. It can be difficult to fit everything you want to in to a year, but we manage it.
M: I think the biggest difference between a traditional degree is the extra term we have, meaning that our holidays are shorter. I think some people would find that difficult, but it suits me and you get used to it.
C: You don’t really have that extra time to catch up if you fall behind. You have to be on top of all your assignments and deadlines, and be willing to do extra independent research whilst working in a time efficient manner.
You also have no time to fail exams. You aren’t usually able to retake them over the summer, so you’ll either have extra exams during your normal exam period, or you’ll have to restart with a later cohort of students.
Do you think that the social aspect of university is fulfilled despite being on a two-year course?
K: There are no more teaching hours in a week than on a traditional one. It is just eight terms across two years instead of nine terms across three. I still have time for a job and to socialise. I think a lot of people assume that those who opt for two-year degrees are either mature students, or people who don’t want the social side of university, when actually there are many different types of people that accelerated degrees appeal to.
M: If anything, there is more consistent social time as you are around people on campus for more of the year. There are daily activities at the students’ union and active societies, for example I’m on the Executive of the Law society. I wouldn’t say really our social and extra-curricular life is restricted.
C: Yes, definitely. My university is small, but the students’ union still throws parties for us every Wednesday and Friday along with plenty of other events. I even served in the students’ union executive office as the societies officer for a year. During the month before exams, everything is much quieter but that is not limited to an accelerated degree. I have had one of those amazing university experiences with memories that will last a lifetime.
What is it like when everyone is on holiday and you’re still at university?
K: For me, it’s great. I don’t have to spend money visiting friends at various universities because during the summer they get bored and stay with me. Also, my friends all go home for the summer, so they’re all in the same place and I’m more likely to see most of them if I go back.
M: We have holidays that are long enough to go away. If anything, I try and take advantage of my holidays more because they are shorter. Our longest holiday is the winter break, and our exams are just before the break so over the holidays we can relax and really enjoy it.
It is not as bad as I thought it would be. The system at Buckingham gives us enough time off: we have four terms and after every term there is a break.
Have you done any work experience during your course, or have any plans to?
K: I’ve done two internships and other work experience since being at university – which I’ve done part-time during the term. I’ve also organised work experience over my summer break this year, too.
M: I have done a couple of work experience placements in law firms since I started my degree. I work part time with the university marketing department, as well as currently working on the University Raising and Giving Campaign. Finding placements isn’t too difficult, as due to our different term structure we are looking for placements when other students are at university, so there is usually less competition.
What do you plan to do after your course?
K: I want to do a master’s to continue pursuing my interest in wildlife conservation and education. I hope to end up as an international development worker of some kind.
Because I started my undergraduate degree in January 2017, I graduate in December 2018. Most master’s programmes that I’m interested in start in September, giving me eight months to travel and get some solid work experience. I’m hoping this will hugely help my chances of getting onto a good course because I will have completed my degree and relevant experience in under three years, making me competitive against those who have done a sandwich placement year and degree in four or more years.
C: I plan to go back to New York in September. I would love to work for the UN or even the federal government. Until then I will probably aim to take the New York Bar, and practice.
Do you feel that studying an accelerated degree will help you achieve your ambitions?
K: I’ve already achieved a big ambition of actually enjoying university! I had such high hopes and was so disappointed with my initial experience that I’m glad there was something more suited to me. Ultimately though, my main goal is to have a job that I love.
M: I think that having an accelerated degree sets me apart from other students. I get to start work faster which I think is great, as it means the next chapter of my life is a bit closer.
C: Of course! I think employers will be impressed with it. We still do the same amount of work, just at an accelerated pace.
What advice would you give to others considering an accelerated degree?
K: Think carefully about your expectations of university. If there’s anything that doesn’t appeal to you about a traditional degree (such as the length, the first year not counting, or even the seasonal structure it offers), then consider an accelerated degree. There are many advantages and it is a great alternative for so many reasons. I can’t recommend accelerated degrees enough!
M: If you’re happy to shorten your holidays, and you can keep yourself motivated, do it. I love the sense of achievement I get from my degree overall. If I had to choose again, I’d pick the accelerated degree every time.
C: For anyone who is considering doing an accelerated degree, I would advise them to go for it. It really was not any harder than the typical degree and it can really help in the long run. You don’t need to be the smartest person in your class, you don’t even have to be highly motivated. You just need to be willing to put in the effort. Stay positive and you can get through it. Dream big!