The UK benefits from a world-class Higher Education (HE) sector which engages with high quality teaching, produces vital research and supports social and economic functions across the country. Our young people are starting university with the expectation that a degree provides a passport to a good job, to career progression and to a good salary.
Whilst higher education courses remain an obvious pathway for many to improve their long-term career prospects, there seems to be considerable quality differences among degree courses on offer. We can observe an increasing diversification of higher education provision with high tuition fees, escalating student debt and varying quality across courses, we are seeing inconsistency in graduate satisfaction.
To maintain its reputation as a powerhouse for society and the economy, we want to see HE become more diverse, employment-focused and offer better value for money. We also urge policy makers to build on lessons of the pastand to apply these lessons to current policy-making.
For HE we would call for:
- Diverse approaches - It is possible to re-imagine the traditional HE model. Innovative examples such as Cardiff University’s Software Academy and the Dyson Institute of Engineering offer a range of approaches including: client-facing projects, meaningful encounters to employers, and linking of theory with practice. Examples such as Graduate Apprenticeships in Scotland also incorporate greater flexibility via flexible entry and exit points, and ‘recognition of prior learning’. This diverse provision can better meet the needs of a varied group of learners.
- Employability skills focused – Graduates with work-ready skills are more likely to find early career success. HE institutions should work collaboratively with employers and learning providers to provide work placements and participation in real-world projects. This would support students to develop skills such as flexibility, self-management, creativity and determination.
- Better careers advice – Learners deserve high-quality, tailored information such as up-to-date industry and labour market information, the destination of learners and the quality and likely returns of courses. This would support more informed choices for students and make institutions more accountable for the destinations of their graduates.
- Value for money - Tuition fees should also be reduced across the board with bursaries and grants better targeted to students from lower income families.
- Expansion of higher level vocational courses - We need to see expansion of the range of high-quality provision at Level 4 and 5, higher and degree apprenticeships and sandwich courses which allow students to combine higher education and work.
Find out more in Our Plan for Higher Education, our research exploring drivers of graduates’ career success and case studies of innovative higher education practice