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CRAC Decisions at 18

Robin Mellors-Bourne is a Director (Research and Intelligence) of the Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC) in Cambridge. Here, he shares with us his personal impressions of CRAC’s recent Decisions at 18 Conference in Manchester (28-29th April).

“One of the issues that raised most debate came out of our opening plenary session. Nick Hillman, the new director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), who gave a keynote address questioned whether careers advisers have got their facts straight about tuition fees and student loans. He has subsequently commented on his experience in his blog to which Tristram Hooley (another of our plenary speakers in that session) and others have replied. Join in the debate at

“I also jotted down, for another reason, some high-level thoughts that came to my mind, running around the conference:

  1. The backdrop to provision of careers advice to those leaving school/college, particularly those in the maintained sector, has weakened again with the revised statutory guidance recently published by the DfE. Despite that, I get the impression that most schools/colleges feel they should continue as best they can. On the other hand, there are already (and may be further) resourcing implications, as career support may slip further down the priority list in terms of expenditure as it is not overtly inspected and the statutory requirements weaken. The number of advisers able to attend a residential conference is certainly less than it was a few years ago. On the other hand, the professional need to give advice and guidance that is as well informed as possible has never been higher.
  2. The mix of delegates at the conference was possibly as great or greater than it has even been, and we had more exhibitors than in any year I have known. The sheer variety of the latter, and the great variety of what they were promoting, suggested to me that this market is immature and somewhat confused. While some traditional players or suppliers are struggling, there are new entrants, some of which are relatively inexperienced (some would say naïve).
  3. There was tangibly greater interest – from both potential presenters and also delegates – in “alternatives” to HE, although some of these are really alternative models of participating in HE rather than genuinely alternatives to HE itself. Increasingly the line between employment and HE is becoming blurred, with sponsored degrees, intercalated placements and fully work-based HE study options, plus higher apprenticeships as routes to HE.
  4. The market for studying HE outside the UK (in English) is growing, albeit from a very low base, but I get the impression that advisers are now seeing a more consistent and overt interest from young people and families in studying abroad as a mainstream option.
  5. I would be pretty confident that advisers will not have been suggesting that a(ny) degree is a passport to a ‘graduate’ job, but the message about the need to develop employability skills during HE programmes seems to have cascaded quite strongly down to advisers at this level too.”

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