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Which way now? Careers and higher education guidance

One of the keynote speakers at this conference in Birmingham on 2nd April stood in front of the audience and said to the lecture hall full of teachers and careers professional working with KS 3,4 and 5 students, "I did not know there were so many of you!"

The conference is an annual event put on by Aimhigher in the West Midlands – a collaborative  venture between Aston University, Birmingham City University, University College Birmingham and University of Birmingham. It is available free with priority access for Aimhigher partners alongside other costed outreach activities such as summer schools and mentoring.

Speakers included Dr Tristram Hooley on world class guidance ("If you want to get there you don’t want to start from here"), graduate careers in a changing world delivered by Claire Adams of the Association of Graduate Recruiters  and Professor Les Ebdon Director of the Office for Fair Access who were going straight from the conference to meet David Willetts to talk about the national strategy for student access and success. Everyone attending the conference who then heard David Willetts talking about the launch of the strategy the following day will have thought 'Well I heard the details first'!

Mike Thompson the Aimhigher Coordinator and his team are to be congratulated on an excellent conference – a great blend of high quality keynote speakers offering fresh information and insights with information workshops on topics such as UCAS: The HE Landscape in 2014, a Student Finance Update and 'I wish I’d known that' delivered by a panel of student ambassadors. Hearing their letters to their younger selves was by turn thought-provoking, funny and moving. The slides from the sessions will be shared via their website. The conference did a great job for me in reminding me of few fundamental truths, pointed me in the direction of some useful new resources and gave me the heads up on some shifts in policy and practice. Some of the key nuggets I gleaned are:

  • BIS published a report in October 2013 entitled The Benefits of HE Participation for Individuals and for Society which looks at benefits along four quadrants with society and individuals along one axis and non-market and market along the other axis. Better general health is a benefit as is greater social cohesion as well as the standard ones of increased employability and higher earnings.
  • 54% of the members for the Association of Graduate Recruiters are now actively recruiting from the school market.
  • UCAS reports a shrinking of the unplaced rates with 74% of applicants finding a place in 2013. Nearly one third of applicants received 5 offers. There is low awareness of UCAS extra which lets students who have had no offers make a 6th choice on a rolling basis. All details covered in the UCAS End of Cycle Report available online. UCAS has lots of developments in the pipeline including the option to feed in additional information to Personal Statements and tailor them for different institutions. They are also exploring the chance for students to upload blogs and physical products as part of their application process. A new tariff comes in for 2017.
  • Les Ebdon had some really powerful statistics to share  on improving equity in access and through into employment. For instance advantaged students are 7 times more likely to get into selective instutions than disadvantaged students. Outreach is having a positive impact with research demonstrating that those students who have 7 or more engagements with HE are 81% more likely to be placed. He has as a mantra 'Access without support is not opportunity'. (Cathy Engstron Syraceuse University)
  • Tristram reminded us we are rarely less than 6 days away from a report on careers services and offered some reassurance that:
    • You can’t keep a good idea down.
    • Good practice is persuasive.
    • Nature abhors a vacuum.
    • There is still plenty of policy and debate in this area.

A really useful day – worth 5 hours travel!

Claire Nix

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