Stephen Spriggs, Managing Director, William Clarence Education

A new year is bringing radical new changes to the higher education sector and ones that could see a complete overhaul of the current perception that university should be available to (virtually) all.

From now on, school leavers who achieve a less-than-glittering DDD at A Level will no longer be eligible for a student loan to fund their dream of going to university.

Instead 20,000 of them will be given cash incentives to take cheaper vocational courses in further education colleges.

I fully support this review. Yes, it’s a policy U-turn and another example of the government trying to get us out of a mess they got us into, when in 1999 when then-prime minister Tony Blair announced that he wanted half of all youngsters to go to university.

However, since then, tuition fees have risen we are saddling our young people – irrespective of their job prospects – with horrific amounts of debt.

Lower grades equalling lower funding makes total sense to me.

Britain is in short supply of manually skilled workers, such as carpenters, plumbers, nannies and electricians. I could go on.

Recently we’ve looked to Eastern Europeans to fill that gap but with Brexit around the corner, this is more problematic. Train our teenagers in these in-demand skills and they will have jobs for life and make a useful contribution to society.

Instead, we have that guy – or girl – who would be a bricklayer now working as a media consultant, earning a third of what they could do if they were prepared to get their hands dirty.

The problem is vocational courses have always been considered the poorer relation of higher education; the poly to the university, and, as reported in The Sunday Times derided as something FOPC (for other people’s children). This needs to change.

By funding that sector properly and telling young adults you can learn while you earn and start working in a job that can become a well-paid career, maybe we can alter its image.

Yes, an 18 year old might prefer to lounge around at uni than do an apprenticeship at a motor mechanics but five years down the line, the former could well be barista in a coffee shop with a five-figure debt of while the latter may have their own garage and a healthy deposit for their own home.

Record numbers of teenagers are heading to uni. In 2017, records showed 49% were entering higher education – a percentage point shy of Blair’s pledge.

There’s this idea that no matter how dire the A Level results – or equivalent – the clearing system and commission-charging agents will get you in to a course, no matter if it’s vague General Studies, Media Studies, Communications or whatever.

If you are lucky to then get a job (often competing with people the same age who started off as runners or tea-makers in companies when you started uni and now have good jobs there) the salaries are small.

We need to do away with the idea that studying a subject is a stepping stone to a job in said subject. Put it this way, I know lots of people in the media and I don’t know one with a degree in Media Studies.

According to UCAS, 12% of university undergraduates are not on their first-choice course. That’s around 50,000 students.

A great many of those will have grabbed whatever’s been offered and settled for the so-called Mickey Mouse degrees that fail to prepare them for work. When they leave, they’ve still got the same size loan as the graduates in Law, Physics, Maths or Medicine but the not the same size job prospects.

In 2017, the Institute of Fiscal Studies calculated the average post-graduate debt to be 50K. Starting salaries in ordinary jobs are unlikely to be at the minimum of 25K required to start paying off the student loan and, frankly, many may never reach it.

After 25 years (during which time our postgrad continues to live with their parents, or rent, as they have no chance of getting on the housing ladder) it’s written off, which must cost the government, or rather the taxpayer, a fortune.

None of it makes sense. Young people are told that not working hard or not having talent doesn’t necessarily preclude them from achieving their dream. Their debts are a burden on them and, ultimately, a burden on society. It means a decision they made at 18, will affect them for the rest of their working life and impact on everything they do.

But let me play devil’s advocate here. If you look at it from the other side, removing the funding for lower-calibre courses would be catastrophic for lower-tier universities (generally the former polys) who welcome these DDD-grade students that the higher–tier unis turn away.

They still have places to fill and many of these courses help fund the more costlier ones, such as sciences, that need labs and equipment. If funding is removed from the less able domestic students, it will lead to more international students taking the places, and paying higher fees, to fill the gap and keep these institutions afloat.

It’s a mess of our politicians’ making. There’s no doubt about it. But something needs to be done as we can’t continue in the same vein. If we do, higher education will become increasingly devalued and young people will be increasingly in debt.

I can hear it: the cries of ‘it’s not fair’. Well here’s a thing: life’s not fair.

Not everyone has the right to earn 50K or own their own home or have as many children as they like or take two holidays a year. But the irony is, landing yourself with a huge debt at a young age, after graduating with a worthless degree will give you even less chance of achieving those dreams mentioned above so maybe it’s time we all need to think about the bigger picture.

We have a responsibility to teach our young people life lessons that have yet to learn as they’re the ones who will pay.

Stephen Spriggs, Managing Director, William Clarence Education

Steve Spriggs Newsroom Strap

About William Clarence Education: The leading education advisory and consultancy service in the UK. With an unrivalled reach into the UK Schooling and University network, William Clarence offers unbiased advice to students and parents from around the world; at every stage of their academic journey.  From Independent School Application and Placement, full UCAS and University application consultancy, Oxbridge Applications  US College Admission and even Homeschooling programmes, William Clarence Education draws on a deep relationship driven network with schools, Universities and senior education figures within the industry.  By putting the student and family at the centre of the process, William Clarence ensures their clients reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of UK education.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Dr Ann Limb CBE DL had a status update on Twitter 4 hours 30 minutes ago

Please don't fall off @NickLinford - neither you nor @AoCDavidH FE needs you both - especially now! https://t.co/rfLsmpv5p7
View Original Tweet

Dr Ann Limb CBE DL had a status update on Twitter 4 hours 45 minutes ago

Great news https://t.co/ZNLumLfHdn
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page