National Audit Office report shares the same tone as Edge's recent report

You may or may not have seen Edge’s recent report, Our Plan for Higher Education. The report looks at the value of degrees, the alternatives to traditional higher education and includes figures from a YouGov survey commissioned by Edge. 

The poll results showed that less than three in every five graduates (58%) felt that they had received good value for money from their university. Secondly, what graduates found most effective in increasing their career prospects, were the transferable skills (75%) (developing independence, research skills, interpersonal skills) which of course can also be acquired effectively in different educational settings or via work experience or an apprenticeship. The survey also found that the majority of existing graduates (52%) said that, if they had their time again, they would be unlikely to go into higher education under the current financial regime.

A recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) echoes Edge’s own findings. The NAO found that only 32% of higher education students consider their course offers value for money, and competition between providers to drive improvements on price and quality has yet to prove effective.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office said “We are deliberately thinking of higher education as a market, and as a market, it has a number of points of failure. Young people are taking out substantial loans to pay for courses without much effective help and advice, and the institutions concerned are under very little competitive pressure to provide best value. If this was a regulated financial market we would be raising the question of mis-selling. The Department is taking action to address some of these issues, but there is a lot that remains to be done.”

Both reports have highlighted that the average debt on graduation for a student is in excess of £50k. Edge proposes that there is a reduction in the tuition fee cap, and that there should also be a much greater diversification in the level of fees charged.

Edge also commissioned research through the Institute of Employment Research at Warwick University which showed that 57% of young people felt that they received an inadequate level of information from universities whilst at school.

We must also diversify the supply side to suit a much wider range of young people. As an apprentice, I feel that we need a significant expansion in higher and degree apprenticeships, both universities and employers need to embrace the concept of degree apprenticeships and what they can offer. 

Overall I feel as if the cost of university should be lower, and the price should correlate with average salaries after graduation. We should do more to make the other options appeal to a wider range ofyoung people, but most importantly we should make sure everyone is aware of their options.

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