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Research finds university advice 'weak'

One in two careers teachers has had fewer than five days' formal training in higher education guidance, according to a new survey.

Careers teachers also spend an average of only 23 per cent of their time on guidance and advice duties, despite the fact that the number of applicants to higher education has increased dramatically. The average careers teacher now has 300 fifth and sixth-formers to deal with.

The survey of 1,013 careers teachers and careers officers was jointly commissioned by Heist, the higher education research group, and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. They say that schools will be unable to meet the standards laid down in a recent Government document, Better Choices, unless these weaknesses are addressed.

The survey found that nearly two-thirds of careers teachers and officers were over 41 and therefore likely to have been out of full-time education for more than 20 years. They also held a wide range of job titles, which made it harder for universities and colleges to contact them.

"Despite the lack of time and low levels of formal updating, careers advisers felt surprisingly well up-to-date with developments," say the authors. "Some might be tempted to say that advisers are being rather complacent."

They also suggest that higher education institutions should carry some responsibility for ensuring that careers teachers are well informed. This would mean producing generic information rather than publicity promoting only their own, narrower interest.

One possible way forward is to appoint specialist HE advisers, says the report. This route is favoured by careers teachers in schools, but disliked by the careers officers employed by local authorities.

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