Most institutions use a semester system with two periods of study: the first from around March to June, followed by a short winter break, and the second from around July to November, followed by a long summer break.
Some institutions and courses have a third period of study that takes place during the traditional summer break. These three periods are called trimesters. By cramming an extra semester's worth of material into each year, students can graduate from their course in a quicker time (for example, a standard three-year bachelor degree may be completed in two years). These accelerated options are known as "fast-tracked" courses.
The trend has gained popularity in recent years, with a wide range of institutions introducing fast-tracked undergraduate degrees. Some institutions offer a trimester system in selected courses only, while others have introduced a trimester system across the board. Even if your course is not available in trimester mode, a "summer semester" or "winter semester" might be an option for certain courses or subjects.
Alternatively, some institutions offer certain courses in an "intensive" or "accelerated" mode, packing more classes into a shorter period of time to enable students to graduate sooner. This may be done by completing subjects in longer chunks of concentrated study (a two-week block, for example), rather than one class per week.
Despite this wide-scale introduction, most institutions and courses give students the option of whether they want to complete their course in fast-track mode or over the standard study period.
Advantages of fast-tracked degrees
- You have the flexibility to start your degree sooner or at a more convenient time of year.
- You are able to graduate sooner, which is particularly good for students who have returned to study and are more focused on getting back into the workforce.
- You have increased flexibility, with the ability to accelerate your course by taking extra units throughout the year or taking a study period or two off to fit study around work, travel or family commitments.