Undergraduates risk burn-out if they sign up to condensed two-year courses, students and parents warned last night.
As reported in The Post yesterday, higher education bosses plan to test-run accelerated "compressed" degrees at five universities, including Staffordshire, from September.
Students will work through the summer vacation and complete a much more intense study programme in order to gain a full honours degree in two-thirds of the time.
But the scheme, outlined by Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell in Coventry on Monday, gained a mixed reception in the region.
Employers' lobby group the Institute of Directors welcomed the move, claiming it would give more choice to students.
But Warwick University, where Mr Rammell was attending a conference of the Higher Education Funding Council, said it could damage research and undermine the value of a degree.
Andrew Wilford, area convener of the National Union of Students, said: "We have concerns that students won't have time to get involved in other aspects of university life.
"University is about more than just getting a degree. When I studied I became a different person and that wasn't just down to the degree.
"It was by making friends. Getting involved in other activities. If they miss out on that, they are not getting the same out of their degree as they would if it were three years."
But a two-year degree would appeal to many students, Mr Wilford said, particularly with the introduction of tuition top-up fees this September. He expressed concern over the standard of education that might be provided by shortened degrees.
"You have to ask where the extra resources are coming from," said Mr Wilford. "Also, a lot of the big universities pride themselves on their research. If they have to put in more time, will they get the time to do the research?
"If these programmes run during the summer, that is when a lot of lecturers like to start research projects."
Margaret Morrissey, whose daughter recently finished a degree, expressed concern over the added pressure students on accelerated degrees would face.
"The dilemma is it may cause a higher rate of drop out because it is quite an intense thing to do.
"I suspect it will be done for the reason of finance, which is wrong. It will be a cheaper way of doing a degree and maybe initially people will think it is great.
"But one wonders if it was so easy to do it in two years why have we, for generations, being taking three and even four years?"
Ms Morrissey, who is spokeswoman for the National Confederation for Parent Teacher Associations, added: "Parents will want to be sure it doesn't impinge upon the quality of the degree and doesn't put their youngsters under pressure that will make them drop out after one year."
Two-year degrees are part of Government plans to increase flexibility in higher education and meet a target of getting half of all 18 to 30-year-olds into higher education by the end of the decade.
Ministers believe it is vital Britain produces more graduates in order to compete with rising economies like India and China.
But Birmingham University also expressed doubt about compressed degrees.
"It is not going to be possible for staff who are researchactive to deliver through that programme," said pro-vice chancellor for academic quality and students Alec Hughes.
"There are also issues around the maturity of learning that occurs with a three and four-year degree that will be damaged if it is compressed in two years."