Universities should advise students to consider technical education or an apprenticeship if they think they are not suited to higher education, the education secretary has said.
Damian Hinds called on universities to drop or revamp courses delivering poor value for money as new analysis showed that on more than one in 10 of all courses, there is a 75 per cent chance that graduates won’t be earning enough five years after leaving university to start making loan repayments.
More news: Post-18 review 'to recommend FE loans'
'Anyone with talent and potential'
He said the opportunity to study at university "should be open to anyone with the talent and potential to benefit from higher education. With students and taxpayers sharing the cost of higher education it’s right that we challenge those institutions which could appear to be more focused on ‘getting bums on seats’ than getting students into high-quality courses worth paying for."
He added: "That’s why I want universities to be brave and ask themselves if they’re running courses that really help students gain the skills they need for the workforce of tomorrow – if they’re not they should improve them or end them.
"But if universities think other options like apprenticeships or technical education are a better fit for a student, they should give young people that advice rather than put them on a course that isn’t providing what they need for a bright future."
'Cash boost for colleges'
His comments come as a report by the Sunday Times suggests the Post-18 Review, expected to report over the coming days, could call for a "cash boost for colleges". It suggests the review, chaired by Philip Augar, would "aims to ease financial pressures on young people and help to divert them from university degrees to vocational and technical courses".
Announced by prime minister Theresa May in February 2018, the review will cover both post-18 education and funding. At the launch, she said the review would consider “the whole post-18 education sector in the round, breaking down false boundaries between further and higher education, so we can create a system which is truly joined up”.
It has been suggested loans for further education students could be among the recommendations.
'Colleges and universities need to come together'
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said the current post-18 offer was not meeting the needs of the nation and of its labour market, "nor does it support the social mobility and life chances of all adults".
"That’s why the Post-18 Review was so welcome, and why I am looking forward to a balanced set of recommendations from the panel led by Philip Augar. Colleges and universities need to come together urgently to campaign for more post-18 funding rather than fight each other in a zero-sum game."
He added: "More than half of the population has fared badly in the last decade, with opportunities for them to learn cut severely. At the same time, hard to fill vacancies are rising dramatically, and mostly in intermediate skills. We need more investment in technical skills and education to support that, as well as a boost to investment in basic skills and digital literacy, aside from whatever the government believes is the right fee cap to ensure universities can continue to thrive. It would be a shame if the Post-18 Review was undermined simply by universities fearing the impact of a reduced fee cap."