The review of student finance, chaired by Joanne Stuart, recommended that the cap on university tuition fees should increase to £5750 a year. Fees would only have to be paid after graduation when the student is earning £21,000 a year.
The education committee were concerned that higher fees might translate into lost opportunities for young people. Will increased fees deter some young people from applying to university? Improving the skills base is vital if we are to attract inward investment and improve the economic prospects overall in the economy. The fees hike is a direct response to the deficit in the Department of Employment and Learning's budget. In its budget the Department said it needed to reduce spending on higher education by £144 million over the next four years.
Writing in Tuesday's EducationGuardian 15.02.2011, Mike Baker hints that young people may be turning their backs on university. This appears somewhat odd given that the latest figures show a record number of applicants. But closer analysis suggests that UK schools-leavers are behaving differently from other groups over university admissions.
Indeed there is mounting evidence that apprenticeships are becoming a more attractive option for many 18 year olds. Should that happen then surely some universities, depending on fees rather than a central grant from government, could face a serious financial squeeze. Current applications are up some 5% , not surprising given that many want to be in higher education in many English universities before the threefold rise in fees in 2012. Despite the rise it is significantly lower than at the same point in each of the last two admission cycles. By last November applications were rising by 11%. Since then applications have nose-dived and by the summer, who knows, there could even turn out to be no rise at all in UK-based applications.
Since the fees rise and subsequent riots it has prompted widespread debate over the value of a degree. This might explain why applications from England were up by only 3.7% compared with applications outside the EU (17%) and from non UK countries within EU by 7.7%. Scotland, where the fees changes do not apply, had a rise of 6.5%. When broken down by age the figures are even starker with a reduction in the number of 18 year old applying in Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland.
One possible explanation for the slowing of applications might be that increasingly, UK school leavers are applying for universities on the European mainland, where fees are much lower (check out previous Blogs on this very subject) and where several institutions are targeting the UK applicants by offering courses taught in English.
More employers are changing their recruitment policies, switching from graduates to training up their own school leavers. The Association of Accounting Technicians is one such employer.
'Could this be the tipping point for apprenticeships?' questions Baker in his article. Applications to Proctor and Gamble's finance apprenticeship for school leavers doubled last year. School-leavers appear to be applying in increasing numbers for apprenticeships. In 2010, some 24,000 applied for the 220 places at BT, while over 65,000 applied for 600 apprenticeships at British Gas.
Job scarcity may account for these figures but there is evidence that employers are switching to school-leaver recruitment. A recent survey by City and Guilds of over 500 companies indicated that over 50% of those already recruiting apprentices believed they offered greater value than graduates. The government has committed itself to create 100,000 new apprenticeships. In the coming months it will be interesting to examine the take up in both apprenticeships and university places.
The sentiments expressed in Baker's article are articulated in the Thursday Essay in the Independent (17.02.2011) where entrepreneur Simon Dolan argues that, not only can one be successful without going to university, but he believes it is a complete waste of time for the vast majority of people who end up going. He claims that many young people are being sold a lie. They are told if they go to university to get a good degree, then they'll get a great job. But the reality is you're not guaranteed a job - let alone a good job - and you'll starting off your life thousands of pounds in debt.
Asking if you can afford to go to university is the wrong question to ask. The question to ask is:
If I go to university will it give me a better chance of getting a good job?
For Simon Dolan, the answer in most cases is no! Notwithstanding the vocational courses such as law, medicine and engineering, he decries the fact that the government have foisted an unhealthy expectation on the young, who, if they don't attend university, they are somehow frowned upon. He envisages the rise in tuition fees as having a positive spin where perhaps the young will think twice about going to university. Furthermore, he argues that there is a lot of merit in people doing things the old-fashioned way - starting at the bottom of a ladder and working one's way upwards. Not only is one picking up valuable experience over time with this approach, but one is already in the marketplace. A lot of university courses have little value in the marketplace. Many people have degrees, quite a number with little market value, and they are no competition for accruing three years of work experience.
What can new students expect?
Life for students of tomorrow will be very different from the traditional image of leafy spires and long summer vacations, according to Richard Garner, education editor of the Independent (17.02.2011)
Will the increased fees be a significant barrier to young people applying to university? How will the university world change to accommodate the class of 2012 and their successors?
Since the previous rise in fees to £3240 the number of young students - under 21 - opting to study via the Open University has grown steadily during recent years.
Earning while learning with students taking full time jobs will increase as will the number of students opting to study close to home thus saving on accommodation costs. Expect too the number of universities that may follow the example of Buckingham University offering two year courses. David Willetts, the Universities Minister, has already indicated he favours a growth in the shorter courses.
Interestingly, KPMG has already announced a ground breaking deal whereby it will pay students £20,000 a year to take its degree course. Under the scheme, 18-year olds will sign a six year contract, splitting their time during the first four years between university and the firm's offices. They will then be guaranteed two years of work with KPMG, ending with a salary of £45,000. Where KPMG have led, more are sure to follow. Could we be entering a scenario where a class divide exists with only those from richer homes taking the traditional approach to a higher education. Are these approaches part of a practical approach to modern higher education which will ensure that as many students as possible take up the opportunity to go to university.
New Law courses at National University of Ireland, Maynooth
The National University of Ireland, Maynooth is offering a suite of undergraduate law degrees open to school
leavers from Northern Ireland.Read more
Situated 15 miles west of Dublin City, NUIM is Ireland’s fast growing university, doubling in size to over 8,000 students since 2004. Achieving national and international recognition in only its first three years of existence, NUIM’s Department of Law is expanding its portfolio of undergraduate degrees to include a four-year, full-time LLB starting this September.
At NUIM Law we appreciate that a successful law graduate is one who has distinguished themselves from their competitors – we take just that approach to being a law school.
The LLB is designed to maximise our students’ ability to compete in the current economic climate. That’s why we offer options that aren’t available at other law schools – options like taking Tax Law, Commercial Litigation and Banking and Financial Law as undergraduate modules. It’s why we make moot court and legal writing an integral part of our undergraduate programme. It’s why we give students the chance to spend a year at a leading Dublin law firm, or a leading law school in the US, France or China. And it’s why those who do best in their assessments will be invited to join the editorial team on the Irish Law Review. An NUIM Law graduate gets experience that other law graduates are unable to offer.
Northern Irish students may apply online through the Central Admissions Office Read more
Full details of all our law degrees are available on our website.Read more
£35 million facility opens in Dundalk
A new facility at Dundalk Institute of Technology which will benefit hundreds of degree students from the north has been opened. The PJ Carroll's Building will house the Institute's school of informatics and creative arts. Dundalk IT is the only college in the Republic that will NOT implement changes to the points system which threatens to make it harder than ever for northern students to win a place.
The new PJ Carroll's Building is a world class facility and is certainly among the top university facilities on the island of Ireland in terms of technology and innovation.