The advertisement has a large red rectangle with the word "FAST FORWARD" with the fast forward logo (2 triangles pointing right ">>"). The advertisement reads:
Our Foundation and Diploma programmes have been created to give you the higher qualification you need within a shorter study duration. You can complete your Foundation studies in one year en route to our 3-year Degree programme - one of the fastest study pathways offered by a university today.
What is this preoccupation with speed? The attraction of achieving a degree in the fastest possible time is alluring.
- The student can 'quit' studying earlier
- The student may join the workforce and earn income earlier
- It's possibly an easier way to a degree (the common excuse is STPM is very difficult)
Are these good enough reasons for you to join a "fast-tracked" degree programme? To be fair, the Unitar's programme is actually not the fastest available recognised route to a degree. Many of the private colleges offer a 3+0 programme i.e., no foundation year is required, you'll take 3 years to complete your degree immediately after SPM or 'O' Levels, hence "saving" 1.5-2 years compared to students who takes the 'A' levels or STPM. Some of these colleges are 'reviewed' briefly in my blog post on "World Class Universities?".
The simple short answer to the above question is "NO". The only reason why you should join these "fast-tracked" programmes is if you regard yourself as a poor to mediocre student who actually require the degree certifications not because of the education process but purely to own a badge for joining the workforce. The reasons why one shouldn't join these degree programmes are plenty:
- The move to shorten degree courses is often a commercial ploy by private universities to attract students and not a decision to improve educational quality. The more courses the college offers with shortened degrees, the less likely the college is interested in educational excellence.
- Practically none of the world's top universities whether in the United States (US) or the United Kingdom (UK) promote shortcuts. For the US, you have to have excellent marks for your SAT examinations, while for the UK, you are almost certainly required to have excellent 'A' Level (or equivalent results) to join the top 10 universities. There is a simple reason for this. The course difficulty as well as academic rigour in these universities are tougher and hence require the extra 1 to 2 year of preparation to ensure that you will be able to "cope" with the curriculum. You want a top degree, you work for it.
- Shortened degree courses typically means that you will learn less. You will be learning less not just from a knowledge gathering process, but also from having less time to hone your critical thinking and analytical skills. Very rarely do these shortened courses on offer in Malaysia covers the same breadth and depth as other comparable courses with longer terms. It only means that you will be getting your paper certificates with less work (which in this case isn't to the student's personal advantage).
Some three years ago, I employed a computer science graduate with a first class honours degree from one of these 3+0 degree programmes "twinned" with one of the UK universities listed in my earlier post. Even in those early days, I was aware that the standards at these colleges were lower, hence I tend to avoid candidates from some of these colleges. However, I made an exception in her case because she had excellent grades for her SPM (8A1s), believing that she may still have the potential to grow. After three months, the mangement and her colleagues were just happy that she had decided to resign on her own accord as she just couldn't cope with the technical rigour and depth of the work involved. I strongly believe that had she proceeded to complete her STPM (or equivalent) and enrolled into one of the better local universities, she would have coped with her tasks easily.
When you have graduated, it may be fair for you to seek the job or career which pays the most money for the least amount of work. If a piece of work is not suitable, you are always able to switch jobs. However, for your degree which you are going to spend some 3-4 years to obtain, it is important that you pick the right one, for you are unlikely to attempt another degree again. Seek the degree course and options which will ensure that you have the best opportunity to receive the best quality education within your personal abilities. Do not seek degree courses or programmes which will provide you with the easiest or fastest route to a piece of paper certification.