Pupils lack information about alternative routes through higher education, teachers warn

Ucas report recommends that teachers should present the pros and cons of different pathways to pupils

Eleanor Busby

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Teachers believe it is difficult for pupils to find useful information about alternative paths through higher education, according to a new study.

The report from the universities’ admissions body Ucas says that students lack access to clear information and guidance to help them understand the different forms of higher education.

Ucas says that less-traditional pathways – which offer flexible ways of gaining higher level skills, often by combining study and work – can help those who might not otherwise pursue higher education.

But heads' leaders say that there is insufficient information about alternative  pathways – such as foundation years, foundation degrees, Higher National qualifications, and Higher and degree-level apprenticeships, according to Ucas.

The report, Progression Pathways 2017: pathways through higher education, recommends that teachers should address current information gaps by:

  • Ensuring that they understand the latest developments in these pathways – including the differences between foundation degrees and foundation years, as well as how foundation degrees may be aligned with higher apprenticeships and topped up to a bachelor’s degree;
  • Ensuring that they understand how Higher National qualifications support progression to an undergraduate degree, and may be aligned with higher apprenticeships;
  • Being able to present the pros and cons to students when comparing these options with other higher education alternatives.

A number of apprenticeship opportunities are listed on the government’s websites, and Ucas has introduced a new search service covering higher and degree apprenticeship opportunities – but the report says that teachers and students are still “confused” by these services.

'Different opportunities'

It adds that teachers are “concerned” about young people leaving school to take up an apprenticeship without completing their Level 3/SCQF Level 6 qualifications, as it may harm their prospects.

Helen Thorne, director of external relations at Ucas, said: “These lesser-known pathways provide a different set of opportunities for students who may not be able to commit to a full-time degree by offering an approach to higher education which may better suit their circumstances.

“We need to work with the sector to raise a wider awareness of these options, and promote recognition of the qualifications and learning they provide, to help more students achieve their full potential and career aspirations.”

Prof Ian Nabney, executive dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Aston University, said: “Degree apprenticeships offer a valuable option to applicants whose learning style is less suited to a traditional on-campus route.

“The difference in the mode of delivery, allowing students to apply their learning in the workplace rather than the classroom, gives those with the right skills and aptitudes a challenging but rewarding route to graduate-level jobs.”

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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