There isn’t an easy one size fits all solution to this, but universities need to become more flexible. There should be options based upon the subject, the student’s previous qualifications, and whether they’ve had a gap year.
In my case I was very angry that I had to pay £3,000 for a Part 1 that was identical in content to my A-level and which was even easier (it was certainly marked less strictly). As a result I was uninterested in the course and this was conducive to getting into bad working habits for the much more important Part 2. In Part 1 I still managed to get high marks with extremely little revision but this made even more annoyed that it didn’t even count.
Corollary: it should be moderately demanding, count, and prepare us for harder work in Part 2, or it should not be there at all. If it is not necessary then it should just be a degree in two parts, a mandatory and pointless third one is simply exploitation of students.
The model I would prefer is having Part 1 only for students who haven’t done an A-level in that particular subject and other students can choose to do it if they haven’t had a gap year.
But for the increasing (this year aside) number of students who do take gap years then that should be their time to move out of home for the first time, to ‘mess around and have a good time’ and/or get used a more adult lifestyle, whereas -evermore expensive- university should be primarily for getting down to work.
We have to remember that a great many students, particularly those from abroad who pay a lot lot more, have no interest in a year of messing around and it is very unfair on them to force them to put their careers on hold for that time.