The Success as a knowledge economy Government White Paper has implications for us as careers practitioners. The overriding purpose of the Whiter Paper is to demonstrate the Government’s support for business-led innovation to take new thinking and ideas from our universities and turn them into new products and services that will create future growth and development in the economy. It is also motivated by a desire to increase consumer protection and improve social mobility for students (It proposes setting up a watchdog body, the Office for Students.) However, the headline grabbing proposals are those relating to tuition fee increases, the expansion of private universities and switching between courses and institutions. Schools and colleges will need to explain the ramifications of these proposed changes carefully to students and their parents/carers.
Universities that are judged to offer high quality teaching will be able to increase their fees above £9,000 in line with inflation starting in 2017-18. The list will be published in 2016-17. This proposal is bound to cause disquiet after reports that universities recorded a record surplus of £1.8bn last year (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/03/tuition-fees-england-universities-surplus-balance). Heads of Sixth, careers leaders and careers advisers will need to make sure that they do enough to help students with their financial planning and career decision-making at 18+.
More private institutions are also likely to be given university status and allowed to award their own degrees. Commentators are concerned that these changes will be introduced too quickly. Students will need extra help in assessing the recognition and reputation of these new courses and institutions as well as help with understanding the quality of student experience that they offer.
The White Paper further suggests making it easier for students to switch courses and institutions. This comes on the back of data showing that 6% of young undergraduates drop out after the first year, up from 5.7% last year (https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/rise-uk-university-dropout-rate-disappointing). While this proposed flexibility may be welcome, schools and colleges can help students more by helping them to make better career enhancing decisions in the first place. This can only happen when professionally-qualified staff in schools and colleges have the time to build up strong relationships with young people who need informed careers information, advice and guidance. However, the effects of the removal of resources for this work has led to yet another enquiry into the state of careers work in schools – this time by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Education (http://www.educationappg.org.uk/2016/04/22/call-for-evidence/). The shortcomings of the Government’s policy of redefining careers work as just about employability and of making employers almost solely responsible for ‘inspiring’ young people are there for all to see.
Download the White Paper here